Graduate, PhD and Masters opportunities


PhD Studentship: Identification of barriers to and facilitators for reducing phosphorus losses from UK dairy farms

Closing Date: 23rd OCTOBER 2017


Supervisors: Dr Partha Ray (University of Reading) Prof Chris Reynolds (University of Reading) Prof Liam Sinclair (Harper Adams University)

Project Description: "Phosphorus (P) is an important nutrient for plant and animal growth and has been heavily used in fertilizer and feed supplements to increase crop and animal production globally and in the UK to secure food supply for a growing population. In recent years P use in animal agriculture has been under scrutiny because diffuse P pollution from concentrated animal holdings has come to be considered one of the major contributors to water quality degradation and less diverse aquatic ecosystems (i.e. eutrophication). In the UK a trend for decreasing P fertilizer use with increasing inputs of manure P to soil indicated that a reduction in manure P output could certainly minimize P oversaturation in soil and subsequently P loss to watercourses. Since manure P and feed P supply in dairy cows are highly and positively correlated, reducing P overfeeding could reduce manure P input into soil. While it is obvious that there is room to reduce manure P loading to soil by reducing or optimizing feed P supply, the barriers to reducing P overfeeding are not known or not well documented. The ongoing change in UK dairy production practice i.e. increased P loading through greater imports of concentrate feed, or greater concentration of production per unit of land available, aggravates spatial imbalances in soil P status and creates challenges for the appropriate use of P-dense manure. This may lead to a situation in future where dairy farmers in ‘P vulnerable zones’ might be required to implement more stringent management practices on their farms, which may put them at a competitive disadvantage compared to farmers in other watersheds. The issue of on-farm P surplus and subsequently environmental P loading could be tackled by developing and implementing management strategies to improve P use efficiency on dairy farms. However, development of efficient management strategies is limited due to lack of data on P import onto and export from dairy farms, factors associated with on-farm P budget and on-farm P balance and soil P status. The current project aims to reduce P losses to the environment from UK dairy farms by 1) identifying barriers to reducing P overfeeding to dairy cows, 2) assessing on-farm P imbalances and associated P losses and 3) identifying management strategies to improve on-farm P balance.

Preferred skills: knowledge/experience of conducting surveys; experience of working in a farm or with farmers; knowledge/experience of statistical/mathematical system-level modelling; The student will be expected to do multiple tasks (e.g. preparing survey questionnaire, interviewing farmers, on-farm sampling, lab work, modelling, etc.) and to have the relative balance.

Funding Notes: AHDB (Dairy) PhD Studentship. Funding starts on 8th January, 2018 for 3 years. The studentship will provide PhD fees, a stipend of £14,296 per annum, and travel, meeting, and research costs of £5,000 per annum. Applications will be considered from only UK/EU candidates who hold (or expect to obtain) 2:1 or 1st Class Honours Degree or Master's in Animal Science/Dairy Science/Agriculture related subject.

For further details contact: Dr Partha Ray






The deadline for uploading completed applications is 5pm UK time on Friday, 3rd November 2017. 


Harper Adams University (HAU) has the above research studentship available in the Animal Production, Welfare and Veterinary Sciences Department.  The project is funded by AHDB Dairy and the studentship will be supervised by Professor Liam Sinclair.

Project Description: The combined effects of an increasing global price of soya bean meal and tighter regulations on the disposal of cattle manure and slurry has led to renewed interest in alternative dietary protein strategies for dairy cows. The two most obvious approaches to reduce the reliance on imported soya bean meal are to reduce dietary protein levels, or to increase the utilisation of high protein home grown forages such as legumes (Sinclair et al., 2013). The first approach has been investigated in joint studies between Harper Adams University and Nottingham University (Sinclair et al., 2013; 2015) and others (e.g. Broderick et al., 2003; Law et al., 2009; Reynolds et al., 2012), mainly using maize silage or lower protein grass silage based diets. It has been shown that dietary protein levels can be reduced to around 140-150 g/kg DM without a major impact on performance, health or fertility if the diets are formulated appropriately to maximise ruminal microbial protein synthesis, as this contains the best mixture of essential amino acids required for milk protein synthesis (Mould and Ørskov, 1983). The second approach has been to reduce purchased protein inclusion in the diet by making greater use of home-grown forages such as lucerne or red clover (e.g. Sinclair et al., 2015; Flockhart et al., 2015; Thomson et al., 2017). What is unclear however, is the impact when dairy cows are fed low protein diets (e.g. 140 g/kg DM) that are based on high protein, home grown forages such as red clover, lucerne or good quality grass silage. It is anticipated that such dietary conditions will result in an excess of rumen degradable protein as most of the N in home grown protein forages is released rapidly in the rumen (e.g. Sinclair et al., 2009), but will be deficient in undegradable and metabolisable protein, and may be imbalanced in amino acids. This is particularly relevant to higher yielding cows where the dietary contribution and quality of bypass protein is more important. As a consequence, reducing the dietary protein concentration in legume based diets may decrease intake and performance compared to maize silage or lower protein grass silage based diets, negating any potential savings in feed N, and therefore requires research to mitigate the impact under commercial feeding practice. 

Preferred skills: All applicants must have a minimum of an upper second class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in Biochemistry, Animal Sciences or a related biological science or an MSc degree in Biochemistry, Animal Sciences or related biological sciences.  Applicants are also expected to have a good knowledge of dairy cow nutrition/forages, biology, biochemistry and nutrition.  A good working knowledge of statistics and statistical analysis software is also required.  This project will give training and experience in practical methods of dairy cow feed evaluation and formulation.  Consequently, there will be good future job prospects in this area within the UK and elsewhere.


A minimum level of competency in English is required. Applicants need to be classed as an overall IELTS grade 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component.  Please see the following link with regard to English Language requirements:

Funding Notes: The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the RCUK rate (£14,553 per annum, 2017-2018 rate).

Further information can be found on the HAU website at and on the research training provided and PhD progression requirements in the Postgraduate Research Students Handbook at:

Contact: For informal enquiries on general aspects of research degrees at HAU, applicants may contact Mrs Viv Slann, Research Students Administrator ( For informal enquiries on the project, applicants may contact the Director of Studies named above through the staff directory:


Further Information and How to Apply



PgC/PgD/MSc - Aquaculture 
Do you want to develop your technical fish production practice to postgraduate level?  Harper Adams University has developed the first Masters degree in Aquaculture. Further information 



MSc/PGDip Animal Nutrition – University of Nottingham

This new vocational course offers the unique opportunity to study farm, companion and zoo animal nutrition and acquire business skills and an in-depth knowledge of the international animal feed industry. This combination will equip you with the knowledge and skills for working in either research or industry.    Further information



PhDs - Nottingham Trent University
Numerous fully-funded PhD studentship opportunities for 2017 available across a number of schools, including animal, rural and environmental sciences. Closing date for applications is Friday 9 December. For information on individual projects and how to apply, visit the NTU Doctoral School website or