£6m dairy research centre aims to raise sector productivity

A £6m Centre for Dairy Science has been opened at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus, intended to “cement the UK’s position” as a global leader in dairy research.

The new facility has been jointly funded by the university and the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (Ciel), and by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

See also: 12 steps to keep heifer growth rates on track after a wet spring

Dairy cows in the centre

It will see a significant expansion in the university’s dairy herd, from 240 cows to 360, together with a new “cutting-edge” laboratory, eight robotic milking machines and a number of robotic scrapers.

“This state-of-the art-facility will allow the UK’s dairy industry to work with leading researchers at the University of Nottingham to develop solutions the industry needs to build on its already excellent position in animal health and welfare,” said Ian Cox from Innovate UK.

“This will help to cement the UK’s position as a global leader in applied animal research and contribute to the nation’s industrial strategy.”

Research will range from “blue sky” strategic projects to applied studies relevant at farm level. It will focus on four main areas:

  1. Nutritional sciences The facilities will allow studies with up to 100 individually fed, high-yielding dairy cows and heifers to test the effect of a range of diets on milk production and composition, feed intake and liveweight change. It will also study issues including rumen function, digestibility, greenhouse gas emissions, reproduction and feeding behaviour.
  2. Disease and animal welfare The flexible housing facility for two groups of 30 animals will allow researchers to evaluate the impact of the environment on the health, welfare and physiology of dairy cows. It will test the effects of building layout, access to indoor and outdoor loafing space, feed space and bedding.
  3. Therapies and vaccines The new laboratory will expand the Dairy Herd Health Group’s capacity to study mastitis, and investigate novel therapies and vaccines derived from new genomic technologies.
  4. Robotics The expansion will double the farm’s Lely Astronaut robotic milking machines from four to eight, with motorised brushes to clean the cows’ teats before laser-guided milking cups attach themselves automatically. Small robot “scrapers” will patrol the floor of the facility on a programmed route, returning periodically to their stations to recharge.

The centre, which is one of 12 research institutes co-ordinated by Ciel, was opened on Wednesday (23 May) by Peter Kendall, chairman of the AHDB.

See more