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Investigating causes of lamb loss on Highland farms and crofts

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 03, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We are seeking a highly motivated individual to carry out PhD research in the field of livestock health, wildlife ecology and veterinary science.

Blackloss is the term used for the unexplained losses of lambs on extensive grazings in the Highlands of Scotland, usually noted by hill sheep farmers as occurring between marking the lambs after lambing and gathering them back in from the hills for autumn sales each year. Predation by wild birds and mammals, high parasite burdens and disease are often given by farmers as presumed reasons for the losses. Abortions, poor ewe nutrition resulting in malnutrition of lambs and lambs dying of hypothermia, trace element deficiencies, phytotoxicities, or infectious diseases could also be significant contributory factors.

The white-tailed eagle is a native species to Scotland which has been reintroduced after becoming extinct through persecution at the start of the 20th Century. There have been a small number of studies seeking to quantify the impacts of white-tailed eagle on sheep farming. The studies concluded that most lambs found in eagle nests were taken as carrion. However, more recent work has confirmed that in some cases white-tailed eagles are bringing freshly dead lamb carcasses to the nest. Post mortem examinations have identified that the majority of these freshly dead lambs have had a range of diseases, deficiencies or parasite loads which would have severely compromised the health of the animal. These conditions would have left livestock vulnerable to predation and in many cases would have been the predisposing cause of death.

The successful candidate will be registered jointly at the University of Edinburgh University (within the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies) and SRUC, supervised by Prof Davy McCracken, Prof Neil Sargison, Dr Ann McLaren and Dr Franz Brulisauer and will also benefit from extensive collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage.

The entry qualification for this PhD studentship is a first class or upper second class honours degree and/or a relevant postgraduate degree, in agricultural, animal or environmental science. Whilst experience in parasitology or veterinary post-mortem techniques would be useful, it is certainly not essential as the student will receive training.

Funding Notes

The stipend will be set at UKRI recommended levels for a 3.5 year-period and the studentship is funded to pay domestic tuition fee levels for UK/EU students. The student will receive an annual student stipend of £14,777 (£15,009 in 2019/20).This studentship will fund to pay the tuition fees at home fees rate only. International students must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the higher international student tuition fee level (approximately £16,740 per year would be required).

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 57.37

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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