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Deriving social networks in cattle and their relation to health and sustainability

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  • Full or part time
    Prof A Dowsey
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The project: A growing population and climate change are stressing the availability of food worldwide. At the same time, high animal welfare and health practice is more important than ever to satisfy societal demands for the livestock sector. The use of precision monitoring instrumentation for dairy cattle has become increasingly adopted to optimise production while maintaining animal health. The John Oldacre Centre at the University of Bristol provides comprehensive monitoring infrastructure for its dairy farm, including blanket video coverage, research wearables, real-time environmental monitoring of weather and emissions, and controlled feeding and production analytics. The centre’s aim is to understand what constitutes and predicts animal resilience and provide key advancements in the basic sciences of cognition and behaviour that will lead to improved welfare practice.

How animals aggregate and interact with each other affects their health, welfare and productivity and, in turn, is affected by them. Social associations and the wider networks resulting from them thus hold information on key aspects of sustainable animal production. This PhD project is aimed at understanding these relationships in cattle. It will use the real-time positional data from our intensive dairy and extensive beef cohorts to first derive social interactions and networks. This will then enable analysis of (i) how these social patterns affect and are affected by health status, and (ii) how they affect our ability to detect early disease signs and sustainability issues (low productivity and high emissions).

The studentship will be based in the groups of Prof Andrew Dowsey, Dr Suzanne Held and Dr Ellen Brooks-Pollock in the Department of Population Health Sciences and Bristol Veterinary School, benefiting from the mass of researchers integrating disparate health, production and behaviour data. The student will also benefit from a rich collaboration with Prof Michael Lee and Dr Jordana Rivero at Rothamsted Research’s Farm Platform at North Wyke, a BBSRC National Capability, who will provide expertise on sustainable food security and grazing livestock systems.

This studentship will start in September 2020.

How to apply:
This studentship is part of the BBSRC SWBio Doctoral Training Partnership ( For UK and EU students satisfying the eligibility criteria (, please apply directly at For International students and others outside this eligibility criteria, we are keen to accept students onto the programme who are self-funded or will apply for a scholarship scheme such as the China Scholarship Council ( or those from other countries (see for a list). In the first instance, please contact us if you intend to follow this path.

Candidate requirements:
Please see
Standard University of Bristol eligibility rules apply. Please see

Contacts: Andrew Dowsey ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Funding: For eligible students, funding is available for full UK/EU tuition fees as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching the UK Research Council rate (e.g. £14,777 for 2018/19, updated each year) for 4 years. An enhanced stipend is available for eligible students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£22,456 per annum). Research training costs are included, as are additional funds to support conferences and a 3-month industrial internship.

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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