Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) PhD - CASE. Metabolomics for biomarker discovery: improving the health, performance and longevity of dairy cows by non-invasively detecting rumen pH

Harper Adams
May 28, 2023
Offerd Salary:£17,668
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) PhD - CASE.

Metabolomics for biomarker discovery: improving the health, performance and longevity of dairy cows by non-invasively detecting rumen pH

Research Office Location: Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB

Post Type: Full Time Closing Date: 23.59 hours BST on Sunday 28 May 2023 Interview Date: To be confirmed Reference: MH-R-RHH-R3-22-JM-R-R

Primary supervisor: Dr James McCaughern, Harper Adams University

Non-academic partner: Dr Jules Taylor-Pickard, Alltech

Project Title: Metabolomics for biomarker discovery: improving the health, performance and longevity of dairy cows by non-invasively detecting rumen pH.

Course duration: 4 years (1-year of training + 3-year research project)

Project description:

This studentship will include a tax-free annual stipend (in the academic year 2022-23 this was £17,668), which will receive an uplift of £1500 per year funded by Alltech Ltd. The expected start date for the studentship is September 2023, and it will include a minimum placement period of 3-months with the supporting non-academic partner (Alltech Ltd). During this studentship the successful applicant is expected to develop sought-after technical skills in the fields of animal nutrition, health and welfare.

Person specification:

Candidates will normally be expected to hold an undergraduate degree with a 1st or a 2.1 in an appropriate subject area (e.g. agricultural science, biological science, animal science, welfare, nutrition or a related subject area). For those who hold a 2.2 at undergraduate level, an additional Masters degree in a relevant field and/or three years postgraduate experience would be required.

Project description:

One of the primary challenges associated with dairy cow nutrition is the provision of a diet that meets the cow's nutrient requirements without compromising her welfare or health. The optimal pH for the cow's rumen ranges from pH 6.0 to 6.5, but the rapid fermentation of sugars in grasses or starches in cereals can reduce ruminal pH to 5.8 or below. The resulting change in pH profile causes a disease known as subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA)1. The mean prevalence of SARA on UK dairy farms is thought to be around 26.2%2, and results in decreased performance (e.g. milk yield), health and welfare. Despite this importance, diagnosis of the disease is problematic, requiring invasive techniques such as inserting a needle through the reticulorumen wall (rumenocentesis), rumen cannulation or the use of rumen pH boluses, all of which are costly, difficult on-farm and have animal welfare implications.

Metabolomics is the identification of a range of small molecules known as metabolites in samples such as hair, milk or saliva, and can be used to develop non-invasive tests for various diseases in the animal kingdom4. This project aims to improve dairy cow health, welfare and performance by using metabolomics to develop a test which can be used to detect SARA on-farm, thereby facilitating dietary changes to treat/prevent the disease. Initial studies will use samples (e.g. milk, saliva and hair) already collected to develop a potential test for the disease, whilst subsequent studies will aim to validate its effectiveness.

To apply for this CASE studentship, please check your eligibility and complete the MIBTP application process in addition to the Harper Adams Application process.

Please ensure that you clearly state you are applying for a CASE project and stipulate which project(s).

MIBTP CASE studentships for Harper Adams are open to UK applicants only.


1. Humer et al (2018) J Dairy Sci 101:872-888; 2. Atkinson (2014) Cattle Pract 22:1-9; 3. Stone (1999) USA; 4. Goldansaz et al (2017) 12:1-26.

Candidates are encouraged to contact Dr James McCaughern to discuss the project before applying if they wish to.

Contact: Dr James McCaughern , Harper Adams University

Apply Online

Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects. Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Applied research is at the heart of the university's activity, with the work of a thriving academic community underpinning both teaching and work with the industries allied to Harper. The 2014 Government Research Excellence Framework rated all of the university's research as “of international quality”, and more than half was deemed “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.


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