Fertility of dairy cows has been in decline since the 1970's and this has
threatened sustainability of the dairy industry worldwide. Research led by
Nottingham University (UoN) identified key drivers of fertility and
provided genetic and nutritional tools for the industry, to help combat
the decline. The genetic tool was the UK Fertility Index, which is used
universally by breeders for national and international bull selection. The
nutritional tool, which is widely applied by international feed companies,
used the concept that nutritional manipulation of insulin enhances
fertility. Evidence shows that use of these tools between 2008 and 2013
has reversed the decline, and fertility is being restored. This has
brought commercial benefits for breeding companies, cattle food producers
and farmers and had a positive impact upon animal welfare.
Impact: Economic / animal health and welfare / environment:
Improved profitability and
sustainability of the UK dairy industry.
Significance: The use of the Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI)
increased the profitability of the
dairy sector by an estimated £634M in 2008-2013 and reduced the greenhouse
from the sector by an estimated 8.4%.
Beneficiaries: Dairy producers, breeding companies, general
public/environment, dairy cattle
welfare and health.
Attribution: Drs Wall, Mrode (SRUC), and Brotherstone (UoE),
Profs. Coffey, Simm, Stott,
Veerkamp, Oldham (SRUC), and Woolliams (UoE/Roslin)
Reach: UK dairy industry. Tools developed, such as the routine
recording of body condition
score, and using these data in national genetic evaluations, have been
internationally, including in major dairy genetics exporting countries
such as the USA, Canada,
the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Dairy-cow herds in the UK and overseas, together with the dairy farming
industry, are benefiting from strategic animal-husbandry changes and
lameness-control programmes underpinned by research undertaken at the
University of Bristol since 1997. The dissemination by the UK Dairy Levy
Board of national Standardised Lameness Scores (the DairyCo
Mobility Scoring system, launched in 2008) and of Husbandry Advisory
Tools (the DairyCo Healthy Feet Programme, launched in 2011) was a
direct result of Bristol's work. It has led to the widespread adoption of
lameness scoring as a farm-management tool, the inclusion of lameness
assessment within certification schemes and a nationwide network of
trained `mobility mentors'. Where implemented, this advisory support has
resulted in a significant drop in lameness prevalence, thereby improving
welfare and reducing the economic losses associated with
treating and culling lame cows. Successful engagement with industry groups
throughout the research process has ensured that scientific outputs have
been rapidly implemented within the farming community. This approach has
been adopted internationally with the scoring system being used by
Europe's largest dairy company and a modified version is also being
promoted by the New Zealand dairy industry.
Different aspects of Professor Paul Watson's research on artificial
insemination and semen preservation techniques, have delivered impact in
agricultural, human healthcare and ecological spheres. They have
contributed to commercial breeding practices, particularly in pigs,
providing substantially improved efficiencies and reliability. Research on
reducing transmission of infectious agents by semen during storage in
liquid nitrogen has been applied to human AI, informing and driving
changes in practice to protect against contamination leading to infection.
In the field of conservation, the RVC's research has made a significant
contribution to international efforts directed at the survival of highly
endangered species, supporting preservation of biodiversity.
The University of Nottingham (UoN) has been at the forefront of research
into intramammary infections during the non-lactating (dry) period in
dairy herds. This research, disseminated through presentations to key
stakeholders and veterinary textbooks, has changed clinical and farmer
practices as evidenced by international disease/welfare reports, national
control programmes and increased use of non-antibiotic teat sealants. The
work has culminated in the launch of a novel software tool that uses the
research findings to provide a farm-specific decision aid, which benefits
the business activities of dairy farmers and improves animal health and
The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for their
pain-relieving properties in
cattle medicine has lagged behind that of other species (e.g. companion
animals) where analgesic
use is now routine. University of Nottingham (UoN) research exploring the
attitudes of vets and
farmers to the use of NSAIDs in cattle, and subsequent marketing by
Boehringer Ingelheim, a
multinational pharmaceutical company, has led to a substantial increase in
analgesic use. UoN
research increased sales for Boehringer Ingelheim and almost doubled the
UK market value of
NSAIDs for use in cattle. With administration of up to 2 million
additional doses per year, the
research had clear benefits for animal welfare.
Impact: Economic: Genomic selection has revolutionised, and is now
standard practice, in the major dairy cattle, pig and chicken breeding
programmes, worldwide and provides multiple quantifiable benefits to
breeders, producers, consumers and animals.
Significance: Increased food production world-wide
Beneficiaries: Breeding companies, primary producers, consumers,
Attribution: Work led by Haley and Woolliams (Roslin Institute now
part of UoE).
Reach: Methodologies applied worldwide in livestock improvement,
and more recently applied in human genetics and plant breeding.
Impact on productivity, the economy and the environment: UK dairy
farmers can select the best animals for breeding using analysis of a wide
range of traits, leading to improved productivity, greater efficiency and
reduced environmental impact, because of UoE research creating a UK
Test Day Model (TDM) and an overall Profitable Lifetime Index
Beneficiaries: The principal beneficiary is the dairy
industry, specifically dairy farmers who are able to generate higher
profits. This has benefits for UK consumers and the economy by keeping
milk prices lower. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated
with more efficient dairy farming practices has global benefits.
Significance and Reach: The genetic evaluation system enabled by
the PLI and TDM has resulted in a financial benefit to the UK dairy
industry of an estimated £440M over the period 2008-2013.
Attribution: The quantitative genetic research was led by Dr Sue
Brotherstone and Professor Bill Hill of the School of Biological Sciences,
UoE, with colleagues at Roslin Institute (UoE; UoA6) and SRUC (also
returned with UoE in UoA6) as described below.
Since 2011, an estimated 3 million UK milk consumers have benefitted each
year from research conducted at the University of Reading, which has
helped reduce saturated fatty acids (SFAs) in milk and milk products. The
research, which was carried out between 2004 and 2013, manipulated dairy
cows' diets to produce milk with reduced saturated fat and increased
unsaturated fat content. Leading UK retailer, Marks and Spencer (M&S),
used this research to support its suppliers in providing a new diet regime
for their dairy cows, launching a new low saturated fat M&S milk in
October 2011. The launch of this healthier milk product has led to (i)
improved diets and reduced associated health risks (heart disease, obesity
and cancer) for M&S customers (ii) reduced use of non-sustainable palm
oil in cow diets (iii) reduced harmful greenhouse gas emissions (iv)
increased sales for M&S and enhanced reputation in terms of quality
and corporate social responsibility (v) increased payment contracts for
milk producers and (vi) new techniques to measure fatty acids in milk for
the dairy industry.
Research undertaken at Strathclyde during 2006-2009 produced a decision
support platform combining artificial intelligence with low power wireless
sensor technology, which was capable of alerting farm staff to animal
conditions requiring human intervention. ETS Ltd, a privately owned
University Spin-out company was founded in 2009 to develop and market the
new technology, and now employs 7 full time staff. Since 2010 more than
250 farms in the UK and Europe have adopted the technology, enabling them
to reduce operating costs, maximise milk revenue, with an estimated
increase of £10k per 100 cows per annum. The new technology has also
improved the performance of other existing businesses and has helped
retain jobs in the supply chain in Scotland.