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University of Reading part of new £5m farming research project – University of Reading

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University of Reading part of new £5m farming research project

Release Date 01 July 2011

The University of Reading is to play a key role in a new £5m research partnership aimed at delivering practical research to British dairy farmers.

The research and knowledge exchange network will focus on improving the utilisation of resources for milk production by UK dairy farmers and the health and welfare of dairy cows.

Funded by industry body DairyCo, the new five year programme will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations, which includes the Animal Science Research Group (ASRG) based in Reading's School of Agriculture, Policy and Development.

There will be two broad areas of research. In the first, which is led by the Scottish Agricultural College, Reading and other partners will focus on soil, forage and grassland.

Reading researchers will investigate the potential for increasing the use of lucerne in dairy cow diets and improving rapid analytical approaches for mixtures of grass and clovers.  The work will provide information that enables dairy farmers to feed forage legumes such as lucerne, clovers, peas and beans more effectively.  In future, these and other forage legumes will offer an important alternative to soya bean meal and other imported proteins currently fed to dairy cows to meet their nutrient requirements. 

Chris Reynolds, Professor of Animal and Dairy Science at the University of Reading said: "ASRG is particularly pleased to be a partner in this ground-breaking new venture with DairyCo and our colleagues at the Scottish Agricultural College and Harper Adams University College. This area is of huge importance due to UK dairy farmers.  Our focus will be on the effective management of forage legumes as an integral component of UK dairy rations.

"This partnership is an extension of the valuable work of ASRG which is currently focusing on reducing the environmental impact of meat and milk production and improving their nutritional value in the human diet."  

The second project, on Health, Welfare and Nutrition, will be led by the University of Nottingham (partnering Harper Adams University College, Royal Veterinary College, Bristol University, SAC and University of Aberystwyth (IBERS)).

Both partnerships will train a total of 12 new PhD students, a proportion of which it is hoped will continue their careers in applied dairy research.

The results of the research will feed directly into DairyCo's own technical guides and key messages to dairy farmers, as well as being promoted for wider use by other industry stakeholders.

"We recognise the importance of continuing technical development to maintaining an efficient, globally competitive and consumer-friendly dairy industry," said Ray Keatinge,

Head of Research and Development at DairyCo. "By developing this kind of partnership approach with leading institutes we can access a wider range of expertise, much of it of international standing."


For all media enquiries please contact James Barr, University of Reading Press Officer on 0118 378 7115 or by email on

To contact DairyCo call Helen Fina on 02476 478696 or email

Notes for Editors

The University of Reading's School of Agriculture, Policy and Development is a world leader in teaching and research in the natural and social sciences relating to agriculture, the food chain, rural environments and the countryside and international development.

In the latest RAE (2008), 45% of its outputs were rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent. Reading is the UK's top university for impact in Agricultural Sciences research (ISI Web of Knowledge, Essential Science Indicators).

The first partnership, led by SAC will focus on soil management, use of slurry and AD digestate during the grazing season, soil compaction and aeration, approaches to grass varietal selection, precision farming grassland, out-wintering systems, more accurate determination of feeding value for high clover silages, well as management and nutritional impacts of maize, lucerne, and whole crop legumes.

The second partnership, on Health Welfare and Nutrition, will target research on improved diet formulation, trace element supplementation, rumen health, dietary protein levels, and grazing management for high yielding cows. On health and welfare, new information will be provided on lameness, mastitis, Johne's disease, guidance on biosecurity and vaccination strategies, best practice for heifer rearing, cow welfare assessment, as well as new industry data on the incidence and prevalence of the major diseases affecting dairy cattle.

DairyCo's aim is to promote world class knowledge to British dairy farmers so they can profit from a sustainable future.

To achieve this DairyCo aims to:

  • Ensure farmers have access to world class information needed to improve competitiveness,

GHG reduction and productivity

  • Ensure farmers have access to direct and indirect support to help them improve their

profitability through better business management

  • Ensure that dairy farming is reducing its impact on the environment
  • Ensure farmers understand the benefits of breeding and use the related tools.


DairyCo is funded entirely by milk producers, via a statutory levy on all milk sold off-farm, at the rate of 0.06p per litre. This provides an annual income of around £6.5m. DairyCo is a division of the statutory levy board, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).


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