Significant new funding into farm animal welfare problems

Significant new funding into farm animal welfare problems

Research into one of the major farm animal welfare problems in Europe – lameness in dairy cows - is set to benefit from significant new EU funding. A project coordinated from the Department of Agriculture & Forestry at the University of Aberdeen has just received funding worth 2.9M Euros (£1.8M) to carry out research aimed at reducing lameness and improving dairy cow welfare in the European Community.

As many as 5 million of the 21.5 million dairy cows in Europe may be affected by lameness, an unacceptable condition which causes severe pain, decreased milk yield, reduced reproductive performance, high culling rates and increased cost of veterinary intervention. It is estimated that the annual cost of lameness to the European dairy sector is more than 1 billion Euros (£600M). The problem of lameness in cows is globally recognised with a biannual international conference devoted to the topic.

The University of Aberdeen has just received EU Framework 5 funding to lead a 42 month programme of research starting this month. The project, worth over 950,000 Euros (£570,000) to the University will be coordinated by Dr Jes Scaife, senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, Agriculture and Forestry. Dr Hugh Galbraith is also a major contributor to the research programme. The project has participants in Austria (University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna); Germany (Freie Universitat Berlin and Klauenpfleiger Meister Rene Pijl); Holland (IPC Livestock); Italy (Studio Veterinario Dott Alberto Brizzi Associati); Sweden (Swedish University of Agricultural Science); Poland (August Cieszkowski University of Agriculture) and the UK (University of Warwick).

It is expected that the main outputs of the research programme will be a greater understanding of the diverse causes of lameness in dairy cows, identification and testing of ‘best practice’ husbandry systems and development of training packages and guidelines suitable for use in the European dairy cattle industry.

Dr Scaife said; “Our interests in lameness research started 5 years ago as an MSc project. Since then our work has received BBSRC and industry funding and now has developed into a multinational,

multidisciplinary research programme. The project is a good example of how applied and fundamental

expertise in animal biology can be integrated to address a major animal health and welfare issue.”

Professor Albert Rodger, Dean of the Faulty of Science & Engineering said: “I am delighted that the University of Aberdeen has been awarded funding for this prestigious project which will be conducted within our new School of Biological Sciences. Agriculture and Forestry. Research at the University of Aberdeen has long had a tradition of excellence; this new grant, along with recent initiatives such as our membership of the Euroleague of Agricultural Universities, will significantly enhance this international dimension.”

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