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Warwick scientists receive £500k to study ‘friendly’ and not so ‘friendly’ bacteria in dairy cows

University of Warwick scientists will be researching bacteria present in milkThe University of Warwick is leading a £500,000 project to improve dairy cow health by studying the bacteria present in milk.

Researchers in the School of Life Sciences have been awarded the funding, in collaboration with leading dairy cow experts at University of Nottingham, to study the role of communities of microbes in mammary gland health in cows.

The funding is part of a £4m investment in research into animal health nationwide awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Animal Health Research Club (ARC).

The club funds research to improve our understanding of resistance in farmed animals to pests and disease, and the funded projects include work to combat costly livestock diseases, create safer vaccines, breed healthier livestock and investigate immune system interactions.

The University of Warwick researchers Dr Kevin Purdy, Professor Laura Green and Dr Edward Smith will look at the cow disease mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder and the most common cause of disease and death in cows. Every year around 30 per cent of cows suffer from mastitis and about 25 per cent of these die or are culled.

Previous studies show that udders that are already colonised by certain bacterial species are less likely to suffer from mastitis.

This work will test the hypothesis that there is a natural community of bacteria in the cow udder that is present before the cow is first suckled by its calf, and that this community plays an important role in preventing mastitis.

Researchers will analyse 13,000 milk samples from 200 cows and identify all bacteria present. They will investigate how the microbial community forms and changes over time and whether it remains stable if disturbed by disease and treatment.

Professor Green said: “Mastitis is a common, complicated disease in dairy cows that continues to be a challenge to prevent and treat. Not only does it reduce cow comfort, it is also a major economic burden for UK farmers.

Dr Purdy said: “We believe the novel approach we will use will lead to new and more effective ways of preventing this important disease, greatly reducing its impact on the dairy industry, improving cattle longevity, food security and helping to reduce the environmental impact of farming.”

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills, said: “Livestock diseases cost UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year, pose welfare problems for farmed animals and negatively affect food security.

“By funding studies that take a broad look at some of the most prevalent and costly livestock diseases, the Animal Health Research Club will be able to deliver results to benefit farmers, animals and consumers.”


For futher information please contact University of Warwick press officer Anna Blackaby on 02476 575910 or a dot blackaby at warwick dot ac dot uk

For futher information please contact University of Warwick press officer Anna Blackaby on 02476 575910 or a dot blackaby at warwick dot ac dot uk