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Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) CASE Studentship - The role of the rumen microbiome in improving nitrogen use efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of dairy cows

Other - Non Specified Department

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Post Type:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Sunday 28 August 2022
Interview Date:  To be confirmed
Reference:  MH-R-RHH-R5-LS-R

The role of the rumen microbiome in improving nitrogen use efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of dairy cows

Primary supervisor: Professor Liam A. Sinclair, Department of Agriculture and Environment

Non-academic partner: Alltech UK Ltd

Project Title: The role of the rumen microbiome in improving nitrogen use efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of dairy cows

Project description:

Please note this project is open to those students who qualify for Home fees only. We are unable to consider International applicants unless you qualify for Home (UK) fee status.

Currently only around 25% of the nitrogen (N) consumed by dairy cows is captured in milk, with the remaining 75% excreted in urine and faeces (Sinclair et al., 2014). This loss of N can contribute to the deterioration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (Dijkstra et al., 2013; Whelan et al., 2013), and dairy farming is the major contributor to ammonia emissions in the UK (Defra, 2019). Ammonia is a gas that is emitted from cattle slurry and either deposited onto land, where it causes water eutrophication and soil acidification (Defra, 2019), or is converted to secondary fine particulate matter that can get into the lungs and blood of humans and animals where it is toxic (Li et al., 2017). There is also public interest in alternatives to feeding soybean meal due to its high environmental cost when grown in deforested regions (Henderson et al., 2021).

The rumen microbiome plays an essential role in feed digestion and N use in dairy cattle, supplying volatile fatty acids for energy use, and high quality microbial protein for host metabolism and performance (McDonald et al., 2021). Recent developments in evaluating microbial composition include marker based amplicon sequencing or metagenomics shotgun sequencing that provide a greater understanding of the composition and function of the rumen, and how the diet and microbiome interact (Zhou et al., 2021). This knowledge is fundamental to improving N use efficiency in dairy cows. The objectives of this project are to manipulate the rumen microbiome by dietary means to improve N use efficiency in dairy cows and consequently reduce N and ammonia-N excretion. A series of dairy cow and in vitro studies will be conducted where the diet will be manipulated and specific feed and forage additives used.

Harper Adams University is one of the few centres in Europe that has the capability to carry out high impact research investigating dietary effects on the rumen microbiome, microbial metabolism and N use efficiency in dairy cows. Lactating dairy cows fitted with rumen cannula allow direct access to the rumen digesta for sampling of the microbiome and the inoculation of in vitro systems. The rumen microbial community will be analysed using the most recent metagenomics and metabarcoding analysis, with blood, urine and faecal samples collected to examine the metabolic and N-balance response. Novel feeds, along with dietary and forage additives will be used to modify the microbiome and reduce or replace protein sources, such as soybean meal.

Contact: Professor Liam A. Sinclair, Harper Adams University

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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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