An expert in farm animal health at The University of Nottingham has been named as this year's Universities Federation for Animal Welfare's (UFAW) Young Scientist of the Year.
Dr Jasmeet Kaler, a lecturer in Epidemiology and Farm Animal Health in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, has been recognised for her significant contribution to improving the welfare of animals in the UK. She has been instrumental in changing current best practice in the management of lameness in sheep -- a problem which affects around three million sheep each year in the UK with major economic and welfare consequences.
Before coming to Nottingham, Dr Kaler graduated as a vet from India in 2002, she completed a Masters in Veterinary Epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College in 2004 and a PhD from University of Warwick in 2008.
Around 10 per cent of the UK's sheep stock is lame at any one time. Following a large scale survey Dr Kaler's doctoral and postdoctoral research found that many farmers were misnaming causes of lameness in sheep which led to misdiagnosis and treatment not being effective or carried out early enough. Videos were also taken to characterise the gate, posture and lameness in sheep.
Research has significantly reduced prevalence of lameness
Dr Kaler said: "The most common cause of lameness in sheep in the UK is footrot -- it affects more than 95 per cent of sheep flocks and costs the sheep industry between £24-80m a year. Footrot is caused by Dichelobacter nodosus, a bacterium. Our research has shown that rapid treatment of these sheep with parenteral antibacterials leads to quickest recovery, maintains foot conformation and prevents recurrent lameness. We have also shown that foot trimming (traditional method of treatment of footrot used by most farmers) in fact delays healing in lame sheep."
The results of her research was used by Farmer Animal Welfare Council and The Sheep Veterinary Society to issue the recommendations and set national targets to reduce lameness levels to five per cent in the next five years and to two per cent by 2021. The research has also influenced teaching at vet schools and continuous professional development.
Dr Kaler said: "It's been a great honour to receive this award and I have been very lucky to have worked with some great scientists in the field. Treatment of lame sheep using recommended practice as identified by our research can lead to significant economic and welfare benefits on farms.
Smart phone technology to monitor lameness
Dr Kaler is working with partners Dunbia and FarmWizard to develop innovative hardware and software with integrated smartphone functionality to monitor and manage lameness on farms to promote best practice uptake. She has been recently funded by Innovate UK (SPILaMM-Sheep Performance Improvement through Lameness Monitoring and Management 2015-2018) to work with industry partners to develop these tools.
The UFAW said her work has contributed to the significant reduction in prevalence of lameness, increased detection and treatment, reduced use of foot trimming and increased use of antibacterial therapy, all of which are of huge impact to the welfare of sheep in the UK.
Professor Gary England, Foundation Dean at the SVMS, said: "I am delighted that Dr Kaler has been named the UFAW Young Scientist of the Year; this is a fitting recognition of her achievements. This work is particularly important because it provides practical solutions to an important area of animal welfare and I am sure that the findings will have a very substantial impact."
Dr Kaler was congratulated by Dr Robert Hubrecht, Chief Executive of UFAW, upon presentation of the UFAW Young Scientist of the Year 2015 award at the UFAW International Symposium in Zagreb, Croatia, July 2015.
Jasmeet was also Runner-up for 2011 Scopus Young Researcher Award in Health and Medical Sciences awarded by Elsevier in association with the US/UK Fulbright Commission.