Scientists funded to investigate stress in farm animals

10/31/05

A team of Scottish researchers is to investigate the long-term effects of stress on farm animals and their young and look at the ways to improve their welfare.

The consortium of scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Scottish Agriculture College and the Roslin Institute will look at the way in which early life events, such as stress before birth and tail-docking in the first days of life, have long-term effects on their young. They will investigate how animals react to these experiences and what impact they may have on the ability of the developing offspring to cope with later stressful challenges and on their overall quality of life.

The University of Edinburgh's Professor Susan Fleetwood-Walker, leader of the project, says: "Our research will help to focus attention on the need to avoid adverse early life challenges to animals in order to ensure their future health and welfare and to optimise their quality of life. We see one outcome of our research being the creation of standards to cover periods of risk for the developing foetus and young neonate. Clearly understanding the interaction between genetics and the early environment will be the key to the way forward in this area."

Funding of more than £2.6m for the project has been donated by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of an £8m programme of research to improve understanding of the science of animal welfare.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "Animal welfare is not just an ethical issue. Good welfare for livestock makes good economic sense by improving productivity and the quality of products."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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