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Can the hierarchical behaviour of dairy cows tell us about their experience of historical treatment for disease, and what can we tell from their behaviours about future response to disease?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Butterworth
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

The project:

Animal health can present economic and animal welfare concerns for dairy farmers. However, it is unknown whether changes in behaviour as a result of sickness have long-term effects, and whether there is a relationship between the social rank of cows in the herd at a moment in time and the medical treatment history of these cows. The behaviour of cows in dairy systems will be studied using the intensive video, sound and environmental monitoring platform at the new John Oldacre centre to assess the interactions between the cows, and outputs from these automated measures will be assessed against methods ethograms. Historical treatment and management data are already captured by the farm. The number and nature of health events in the record, will be used as comparative factors against which behavioural changes with time can be assessed. One of the hypotheses being tested will be that history of medical treatments is not, per se, damaging to a cow’s social position in the herd. This supposition may have implications for cow choice and retention in the herd. The findings of the work may also have implications for animal treatment choices, including choices about antimicrobial use.

This studentship will start in September 2019.

How to apply:
Please make an online application for this project at Please select ‘Faculty of Health Sciences’ and then ‘Veterinary Science_(PhD)’ on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the studentship in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.
We will consider students who are either self-funded or will apply for a scholarship scheme such as from the China Scholarship Council (, a Commonwealth Scholarship (, or those from other countries (see for a list). If you intend to apply for a scholarship please contact us as soon as possible so we can support that process.

Candidate requirements: A degree in animal agriculture, animal behavior, or veterinary science. The candidate will have an interest in, and experience in, farm animal production systems. The candidate will have enthusiasm for automated assessment methods, and will show capacity in data collation and word processing.


[Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funding: Self-funded, or supported by funds from a successful scholarship application such as to the China Scholarship Council (deadline 18th January 2019) or a Commonweath Scholarship (deadline 25th January 2019).

How good is research at University of Bristol in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.03

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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