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Lameness, Sensory Processing, and Affective State in Dairy Cattle

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

With many UK dairy cattle become lame, often repeatedly, during their productive lives lameness represents a production disease which gives rise to considerable animal welfare concern. Previous research has established that lame animals become hyperalgesic (demonstrating and increased sensitivity to noxious stimuli) and that this hyperalgesia can persist for 28 days or longer after apparent clinical resolution of the lameness causing lesion. There is also some evidence that the use of analgesics may modulate the level of hyperalgesia associated with lameness.

However, hyperalgesia alone does not give insight in to how cattle experience ‘pain’ associated with lameness. The cow’s experience during a lameness episode and the impact this has on her affective state is critical to how lameness affects her welfare. Techniques which allow insight into the affective state of animals are being developed, although these currently are limited in application to adult dairy cattle. Therefore the aim of this studentship is to further develop measures of affective state in dairy cattle which will allow the investigation of the relationship between altered sensory processing and affective state in animals that have a history of repeated episodes of lameness. The project will involve both the development and validation of novel techniques for quantitative sensory testing and affective state measurement and the use of these techniques to investigate the welfare impact of lameness in dairy cattle. This research project will provide the applicant with an extensive range of skills in relation to the study of animal welfare.

The studentship will be based in the Animal Welfare and Behaviour Research Group at the School of Veterinary Sciences and there will be opportunities for field work at the University of Bristol dairy farm.

PhD or Master by research: We welcome applications at any time of year from self-funded students interested in production animal welfare, lameness and pain management. Please contact if you would like more information, or see: http://www.bris.ac.uk/vetscience/people/becky-r-whay/overview.html

When applying please select ’Veterinary Sciences PhD’ within the Faculty of Health Sciences.


Mendl M, Burman OHP, Parker RMA and ES Paul (2009) Cognitive bias as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare: Emerging evidence and underlying mechanisms. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 118, 161-181
Whay, H.R. (1997) Pain in the lame cow. The Irish Veterinary Journal 50, 603-609
Whay, H.R., Waterman, A.E. & Webster, A.J.F. (1997) Associations between locomotion, claw lesions and nociceptive threshold in dairy heifers during the peri-partum period. The Veterinary Journal 154, 155-161
Whay, H.R., Webster, A.J.F. & Waterman-Pearson, A.E. (2005) The Role of Ketoprofen in the Modulation of Hyperalgesia Associated with Lameness in Dairy Cattle. Veterinary Record 157, 729-733
Barker, Z.E., Leach, K.A., Whay, H.R., Bell, N.J. & Main, D.C.J. (2010) Assessment of lameness prevalence and associated risk factors in dairy herds in England and Wales. Journal of Dairy Science 93, 932 - 941

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