Improving the efficiency of sheep production through environmental management (PhD Scholarship)

Applications for this scholarship are now closed.

Improving the efficiency of sheep production through environmental management

Project ID: BUK2136
Annual Stipend: £14,300 p.a.
Application Deadline: 5p.m. November 17th, 2017

Applications are invited for a three-year research PhD studentship in the area of land management and sustainable intensification of livestock systems at the School of Environment, Natural Resources & Geography, Bangor University, UK.

The studentship is funded by the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) in collaboration with our industry partner, Innovis. It will cover tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend at the standard RCUK rate (around £14,300 per year), as well as a travel budget for workshop and conference attendance. The studentship is available from January 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Applicants should hold a first or upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in environmental science or management, agriculture, veterinary or animal science, or a related degree. Please submit a CV (max 2 pages) together with a covering letter to Dr Prysor Williams at prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk  and cc to Dr Penny Dowdney at p.j.dowdney@bangor.ac.uk by 17:00 on 17th November 2017.

Detailed project outline:

The livestock sector is under increasing pressure to improve the efficiencies of production, both from economic and environmental aspects. Reducing losses (thereby increasing output for the same input) is central to this. Upland sheep systems face particular challenges with inclement weather: it is well known that hypothermia accounts for a significant proportion of losses of new-born lambs (30%, Barlow et al. 1987), whilst sheep also expend much energy to maintain body temperature, which makes them more susceptible to other disease challenges, and increases production costs. Increasing the provision of shelter through the planting of hedges and trees may therefore improve the survival and performance of upland sheep flocks. In parallel, the uplands are regarded as key areas for afforestation programmes needed to reduce the impacts of climate change (e.g. flooding) and provide improved habitat for biodiversity. Strategic planting of trees and hedges therefore present economic and environmental “win–wins” to both increase and improve the economic viability of upland sheep systems and deliver multiple environmental benefits. The specific research question being addressed in this project is

How does the provision of on-farm shelter impact livestock production efficiency? 

This project will answer that question through gathering evidence from sheep behaviour, animal performance, and health and mortality data.

The project will bring together a range of partners across many disciplines (the environmental, veterinary, and agricultural sciences, as well as economics) to address the above research question. The project will work with Innovis – a company that is at the forefront of sheep breeding in the UK (www.innovis.org.uk). Innovis operate a highly monitored system, and the project will capitalise on years of data held by Innovis on their sheep production system. Their upland lambing enterprise will provide an excellent base to determine the impacts of the environment on such a system. The findings will then be extrapolated to other upland systems, including Bangor University’s own farm (Henfaes Research Centre), to model the broader value of increasing shelter on upland livestock farms. The student will also benefit from input by experts at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham.

Background to the school:

The School of Environment, Natural Resources & Geography at Bangor University is internationally renowned for its cross-disciplinary research on sustainable land use, and has a broad expertise in the fields of environmental sciences, ecology, and agriculture. The project will build on a number of relevant existing and forthcoming projects at Bangor on sustainable intensification of livestock production systems.  We have a wealth of staff and state-of-the-art facilities for lab-based and fieldbased experiments. The project directly addresses some of the major policy and land-use questions of our time – how a viable agriculture industry can deliver greatest environmental benefits, as well as production of food. The student will benefit from a strong link to policy-makers and industry, and of being part of a bigger team working on related projects.

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher-level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in the Convergence Area of Wales on University registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification.