1993 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

1. Mother-Offspring Interactions:

I have had a long standing research interest in maternal behaviour, mother-offspring interactions and offspring development since 1988,  involving research in a variety of large and small animal models (sheep, pigs, horses, cattle, mice and guinea pigs). This research has been focused on applied questions: initially looking at the impact of maternal undernutrition in pregnancy on muscle development, and more recently concentrating on impacts of environmental and genetic factors in neonatal survival and development. Alongside the more applied aspects of this area I have also investigated more strategic questions: the role of physiological and neuroendocrine factors in mediating individual differences in maternal behaviour; the impact of variation in maternal care on offspring development and the physiology of foetal and neonatal development.

2. Welfare of extensively managed animals

The welfare of extensively managed animals that have been relatively neglected in comparison to intensively managed animals. My research in this area has focused mainly on sheep, and the ability to identify welfare problems, to understand the welfare needs of this species and to assess welfare in the extensive environment. Pain, particularly induced by management procedures, is also a significant welfare concern in all species, and opportunities to mitigate pain, either through maternal care or analgesic treatment, is also a research interest.

3. Human behaviour change for animal welfare

To bring about real improvement in animal welfare often requires changing practice sand human attitudes, and collaboration with social scientists, and others working with people to influence change. As part of work in other areas to engage with farmers and other actors the importance of understanding how and why people might change responses to animals has become evident. I have developed a number of new projects in this area, focusing on horses and farmed animals, to investigate effective interventions to improve animal welfare management and practice.


  • PhD: 2004 Helena Pickup Maternal Behaviour in the Ewe: Consistency in the expression of maternal behaviour during lactation and the effect of variation in dam and sire breed on the development of offspring
  • PhD: 2009 Susanne Kirwan: Best use of labour to enhance animal welfare and productivity in extensive sheep farming systems (2nd Supervisor).
  • PhD: 2009 Hanna Miedema: Parturition behaviour in dairy cows (2nd Supervisor)
  • PhD: 2011 Alice Barrier: Long-term effects of parturition difficulty on dairy cows and calves (2nd Supervisor)
  • PhD: 2012  Stephanie Matheson: Genetic effects on lamb behaviour and welfare
  • PhD: 2013 Tamsin Coombs: Effects of muscle development of lamb behaviour
  • PhD: 2016 Susan Richmond: Development of animal welfare assessment protocols in sheep
  • PhD: 2016 Kasia Maslowska: Assessment of immunocastration as a means to improve the welfare and productivity of lambs
  • PhD: 2017 Leonor Valente: Impact of prenatal and postnatal stress on offspring behaviour and epigenetic regulation of stress axis function in sheep
  • PhD: 2018 Nadiah Yusof: Effects of social stress on the expression of maternal behaviour in sheep
  • PhD: 2019 Nicola McGrath: Vocalisations and behaviour of chickens in anticipation of rewards. (2nd supervisor)
  • Current, began October 2012 Heather Bacon (part time): Mixed method approach to understanding the barriers to improving zoo animal welfare (2nd supervisor) [thesis revisions post viva]
  • Current, began in October 2015 Panoraia Kyriazopoulou: Stress effects on the ovine rumen microbiome (2nd supervisor) [thesis revisions post viva]
  • Current, began October 2016 Gemma Pearson: Stress in equids undergoing veterinary care and the development of interventions that positively influence the horses’ experience. (2nd supervisor) [submitted]
  • Current, began October 2016 Dwayne Shiels: Ewe and lamb behaviour and lamb mortality during the periparturient period.(with Teagasc, Ireland)
  • Current, began September 2017 Cathrine Erichsen: Improving the survival lambs from larger litters (with AgResearch, New Zealand)
  • Current, began December 2017 Wendy Watson (part time): Impact of owner knowledge and attitudes on equine welfare
  • Current, began October 2018 Roberta Vitiello: Motherless lambs: The impact of rearing without the mother on neurological development and cognitive behaviour (with INRA, France)
  • Current, begun September 2020 Lisa (Qing) Yang (part time): Developing interventions to encourage Chinese poultry producers to improve animal welfare (second supervisor)
  • Current, begun October 2020, Michelle Reeves: Developing animal-based indicators of sheep welfare for a PLF approach to animal welfare management.
  • Current, begun December 2020: Kim Hay (part time): An investigation into genetic improvement of lamb survival and mothering behaviour in extensive flocks (with Innovis, UK).


EU H2020 TechCare: 2020-2024 (applying PLF approaches to welfare management of small ruminants) (WP leader)

Open Philanthropy Project (2016-2022): Healthy Animals, Healthy Food, Healthy People (funding work in China) (co-I)

Scottish Government RESAS SRP 2016-2021, RD2.2.7: Improving animal husbandry (PI)

Scottish Government RESAS SRP 2016-2021, RD2.2.8: Welfare impacts of disease (PI)

Animal Welfare Foundation (2017-2019): Animal welfare prioritisation. (PI)

EU H2020 Thematic Network: SheepNet (2016-2019) WP leader

Scottish Government: Development of positive welfare indicators for farm assurance (2016-2018) (Co-I)

KTIF LiveLambs (2016-2018) (Member)

Scottish Partnership for Animal Welfare Science (SPASE), Module 2 (2011-2016) (Co-I)

EU FP7 Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN); 2011-2015 (Species lead)



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