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Impacts of larger litter size on robustness and resilience of pigs

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  Dr Emma Baxter  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Pigs exhibit the most severe naturally occurring intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) among livestock species where there is impaired growth and development of the embryo/foetus or its organs during pregnancy. IUGR has been exacerbated by selection pressure for very large litter sizes (hyperprolificacy) further impacting growth, development and survival of fetuses. IUGR piglets that survive to term are known to have impaired physical functions including their growth, reproduction and stress reactivity. There are varying degrees of IUGR (mild/moderate/severe) presenting with different pathologies. Recent evidence suggests that severe IUGR can result in significant effects on the inflammatory state of the brain with implications for neuropathology in affected pigs. This project aims to better quantify the extent of these pathologies, understand their impacts and the pathways that lead to them, as well as determine if there is a genetic component. The studentship will also develop and test mitigation strategies against IUGR impacts, providing practical insight for farmers and improving the welfare and production value of these piglets. 

The studentship will investigate the robustness and resilience of piglets with varying degrees of IUGR, thus determine the sustainability of breeding for hyperprolificacy. It will provide important new information on the impacts of hyperprolificacy on pig welfare and productivity to inform both future policy and practice. Applying an interdisciplinary mix of bioscience skills will assess the impacts of hyperprolificacy on neuroinflammation, neurodevelopment and behavioural phenotypes in the pig. This interdisciplinarity will be achieved by the cross-institutional partnership between SRUC and the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh). SRUC is renowned for its work on pig behaviour and welfare whilst Roslin is a world leader in bioscience applied to large animals. The project will also benefit from wider collaborations with industry and other academic partners.

This studentship will provide excellent training in both fundamental and applied aspects of animal welfare science. The student will be trained in laboratory skills relating to assessment of neuroinflammation, neuro- and behavioural development in neonatal pigs as well as how to perform non-invasive techniques and participate in refining data collection. They will have opportunities to work in high-welfare systems for pigs to test practical strategies to mitigate IUGR effects, improving robustness and resilience of pig herds. The area of work has both considerable scientific novelty and is practically relevant as indicated by support from industry. Our industry and academic networks will offer many opportunities for knowledge transfer and exchange including access to relevant on-campus and online resources.


Application instructions can be found on the SRUC website- PhD opportunities | SRUC

  1. Download and complete the Equal opportunities survey and note the completion reference
  2. Download and complete the SRUC Application form
  3. Download the Academic Reference Request and send to two referees requesting they submit to [Email Address Removed] by the closing date.

Send your application including the following to [Email Address Removed]:

  • Completed Application form quoting REF SRUC/EB
  • Academic Qualifications
  • English Language Qualification (if applicable)

Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please ensure your application is complete by Thursday 5th January 2023.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year PhD studentship is open to UK and international students, providing funding to cover UKRI level stipend and UK level tuition fees.

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