FoodBioSystems DTP - PhD Project Opportunity


Closes in 14 days (08 Feb)

Project title:

FBS2021-72-Arnott: Nutritional programming in replacement dairy heifers: Future-proofing herd performance, health and behaviour

Lead supervisor:

Dr Gareth Arnott, School of Biological Science, Queen’s University Belfast

Project description:

The future dairy herd needs you!! The lifetime performance of a dairy calf is impacted by its health, nutrition and environment, with a sub optimal position in any of these factors affecting the animal’s ability to achieve its genetic potential. The plane and composition of nutrients provided to calves in early life may be linked to changes in the calf metabolism and have the potential to persist throughout the animal’s lifetime, with implications for performance, longevity and welfare. Further, nutrition can impact the gut microbiome, disruptions to which can have a long lasting impact on immune system development and function. This is an important consideration in livestock production systems given the economic impact of disease and accompanying environmental implications. The microbiome has also been linked to behavioural development in adult dairy cattle, with improvements in milk quality and production found in calmer dairy cows. However, little is currently known about the impact of early life dairy calf nutrition on later life, and if certain nutritional regimes can be used to generate positive traits for production, health and welfare.

In this exciting PhD program the scholar will undertake a high impact research project at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in collaboration with University of Reading (UoR), and will also benefit from the farm animal research facilities at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough and Trouw Nutrition Ruminant Research Centre, The Netherlands. The scholar will assess the impact of pre- and post- wean nutritional regime in dairy calves on performance and behavioural traits at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute research farm in Hillsborough. Longitudinal stability of metabotype alongside the correlation between metabotype and animal phenotype (e.g. feed efficiency, milk production, behvaiour) will be examined as the calves grow and transition into the dairy herd. The impact of nutritional regime on metabotype and the gut microbiota will be evaluated using the state-of-the-art omics methods at the research facilities in QUB and UoR. The scholar will also benefit from a placement at the extensive research facilities of Trouw Nutrition, The Netherlands.

This research project will extend our understanding of the effects of early life nutrition and help to develop nutritional strategies in calves for metabolic programing of the future dairy herd. This will allow development of strategies for targeted selection of traits which will contribute to an environmentally sustainable, high welfare and productive dairy system. The scholar will benefit from a strong interdisciplinary supervisory team involving world leading academic institutes and industry leaders. The team will be led by Dr Gareth Arnott at QUB and will include Dr Sokratis Stergiadis (UoR), Dr Omar Cristobal Carballo (AFBI) and Dr Leonel Leal (Trouw Nutrition).

For further details and how to apply please click here