The Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR) is a unique, world-renowned facility for applied and strategic animal research, situated at the University of Reading's Hall Farm at Arborfield.
Research at CEDAR addresses many of the key issues for the sustainability of animal production systems, such as environmental impacts, milk and meat composition and consumer health, antimicrobial resistance, and animal behaviour and welfare.
Our applied dairy research facilities
The extensive research capabilities at CEDAR include capacity for individually feeding up to 200 cows with different diets in a commercial environment.
Our applied facilities offer the opportunity to undertake dairy cattle research while the animals remain under typical commercial farm management. This is essential to ensure that research findings are applicable to real world scenarios.
Our strategic livestock research facilities
Recently refurbished digestion and metabolism facilities enable more detailed studies of cattle or sheep, allowing us to study digestive physiology and the effects of diet on methane and nitrogen emissions.
Here, we can measure how efficiently nutrients are used by individual animals and the resulting emissions that are produced. Using these facilities, we find solutions that improve the sustainability of food production.
Our flexible housing facilities allow us to undertake research ranging from observations of behaviour and welfare to supporting nano-body and vaccine research using a range of species, including beef cattle, sheep, poultry, and llamas.
Meat and Growth Research Unit
Our Meat and Growth Research Unit enables us to not only monitor the growth of a range of species but also assess the nutritional and compositional quality of the products they produce. Recent studies include research on feed efficiency and gut health, gut microbiology, vaccine development, and behaviour research.
Working with colleagues in Food and Nutritional Sciences, we also assess eating quality and undertake taste testing and impacts on consumer preference.
Notable CEDAR studies
The DiverseForages Project
The DiverseForages Project was a five-year study (2016 to 2020) funded by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation club (SARIC), led by the University of Reading in collaboration with Duchy College, Rothamsted North Wyke, and Cotswold Seeds Ltd.
The project compared the performance of more diverse, multiple species pastures with conventional fertilised ryegrass pasture within ruminant grazing systems.
Results from the study have shown that for established non-fertilised diverse pastures (or 'herbal leys') biomass yield was the same (or sometimes better) than the nitrogen fertilised ryegrass control, and that the cattle grazing on them grew at the same rate as cattle grazing the control nitrogen fertilized sward.
As well as the environmental and economic benefits gained from reduced nitrogen fertiliser use, the diverse forages also gave resilience to extreme weather and provided ecosystem services such as improved biodiversity.
The project has gained substantial interest from farmers, environmental organisations, and policy makers due to the potential for more diverse forages to be an extremely sustainable feed source for grazing ruminants.
Long-term protein utilisation in lactating dairy cows
Funded by DEFRA and AHDB Dairy, this project is a collaborative study led by the University of Reading to investigate the long-term implications of feeding lower protein diets to improve protein efficiency in dairy production systems.
At CEDAR, 215 cows have been followed for up to three full lactations to assess the effects of feeding differing levels of protein in their diets. This six-and-a-half year project is one of the most comprehensive protein feeding studies in dairy cows that has been performed to date, and is unprecedented in its scale and duration.
The vast data set includes measurements of milk yield and composition, diet intake, nitrogen metabolism, health and fertility. In general, results suggest some reductions to dietary protein are possible without negative impacts on animal health and fertility and that individual animals vary in their protein use efficiency. This suggests the possibility to select for more efficient and therefore more sustainable animals in the future.
Altering the fatty acid profile of ruminant milk and meat products
The effect of drinking milk on human health has been the subject of much debate in recent years. Professor Ian Givens has led a number of critically acclaimed research projects in this area and in 2015 was awarded the prestigious Innovator of the Year Award for his most recent collaborative project in this field: the MRC-funded RESET study.
During this study, cows at CEDAR were fed a diet that was formulated to reduce the proportion of saturated fatty acids (SFA) produced in their milk and replace them with beneficial mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA).
This modified milk was made into butter, cheese and UHT milk, which was then included in the diet of a cohort of volunteers who were assessed for effects of the reduced-SFA dairy products on indicators of cardiovascular and metabolic health.
LEAF Innovation Centre
In 2017, CEDAR was successful in a bid to become a LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) innovation centre.
The Centre for Dairy Research joins a select group of prestigious educational organisations aligned with LEAF's mission of sustainable farming.
The aim of LEAF Innovation Centres is to provide robust scientific data on how to minimise the environmental impact of both livestock and arable farming while maintaining high levels of quality food production that can be disseminated through LEAF to the agricultural community.
LEAF is also well known for organising Open Farm Sunday, a yearly event that sees thousands of farms across the UK open their doors to the general public for an afternoon of educational farm tours and activities.