Scientists at The University of Nottingham will lead a major new research programme to help British dairy farms maintain a globally competitive position.
The five-year programme, funded with £2.5m from industry body DairyCo, will conduct cutting-edge research on herd welfare, diet, grazing, health and disease -- delivering the benefits of that research direct to British dairy farmers.
Academics aim to develop programmes to ensure the health, welfare and nutritional status of the national dairy herd is maintained to world class standards, improving the efficiency of milk production on British dairy farms and enabling the industry to compete in the global market.
The research will be undertaken as a joint project between the University's School of Biosciences and its School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. Together, they are number one in the UK for research in this field -- their joint submission in the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was ranked top in the category of Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Sciences.
The 'Health, Welfare and Nutrition' partnership, led by Nottingham, also includes five other institutions: Harper Adams University College, the Royal Veterinary College, Bristol University, the Scottish Agricultural College and the University of Aberystwyth.
Professor Phil Garnsworthy, of The University of Nottingham's School of Biosciences, is leading the project.
Professor Garnsworthy said: "This partnership brings together the top UK institutions for research in dairying, whose combined expertise in the fields of animal health, welfare and nutrition constitutes a world-leading team. Each of the partners has experts with complementary research interests and a proven track record of multi-centre collaborations that will ensure success of the partnership.
Professor Bob Webb, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: "The University is delighted by the announcement of this major research partnership. It aligns perfectly with the University's Research and Knowledge Transfer Strategy."
DairyCo is funded entirely by milk producers, via a statutory levy on all milk sold at the rate of 0.06p per litre. It is part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The project will mean DairyCo will have a greater body of robust data to provide all farmers, with practical information to allow them to improve business efficiency and reduce wastage. It will also help farmers to reduce production costs and safeguard future milk supplies.
The partnership will train a total of 10 new PhD students, including four funded by the University. It is hoped that a proportion of them will continue their careers in applied dairy research.
Ray Keatinge, head of research and development at DairyCo, said: "We recognise the importance of continuing technical development to maintaining an efficient, globally competitive and consumer-friendly dairy industry. The partnership approach will not only provide new information for dairy farmers, but will help build the UK industry's capacity to deliver more of this type of research in the future.
"By developing this kind of relationship with leading institutes we can access a wider range of expertise, much of it of international standing. By investing DairyCo funding into new and existing research programmes the aim is to maximise the value of our spend, and open up opportunities for the researchers to access further funding from the UK Research Councils."
Dairy farmer Kevin Beaty, chair of the DairyCo Research Advisory Forum says: "The partnership approach delivers great value to the levy payer. What's more, through this forum, farmers have been involved in identifying and recommending the research priorities, so we can be confident the research fits with what is needed on-farm."
The partnership on Health Welfare and Nutrition will target research on improved diet formulation, trace element supplementation, rumen health, dietary protein levels, and grazing management for high yielding cows. On health and welfare, new information will be provided on lameness, mastitis, Johne's disease, guidance on biosecurity and vaccination strategies, best practice for heifer rearing, cow welfare assessment, as well as new industry data on the incidence and prevalence of the major diseases affecting dairy cattle.
Dr Celia Caulcott, director for innovation and skills, at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "The dairy sector is a vital part of the food chain and I fully support this innovative approach DairyCo has taken to engage the UK's world-leading research base in generating new knowledge, expertise and advice for farmers.
"Increased global demand for dairy products is forecast to be a contributing factor in future food insecurity. The research being supported will contribute to the aim we are all working towards -- sustainably produced, high quality and affordable food for everyone."
Global food security is one of The University of Nottingham's research priority areas, bringing together scientists, engineers, social scientists, economists and politics experts to tackle one of the most pressing problems of the modern age -- feeding the world in a sustainable way.