The Centre for Dairy Research
Located at the University's Shinfield Farm and established in 1992, the Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR) is a unique, state-of-the-art scientific facility for applied and strategic large animal research, including studies concerning milk composition and human health, dairy cow nutrition, and the environmental impacts of meat and milk production.
The extensive research capabilities of CEDAR include capacity of individually feeding up to 200 cows fed different diets in a commercial environment, and recently refurbished digestion and metabolism facilities that enable more detailed studies. In addition, the meat and growth research unit expands the site's capabilities beyond simply dairy research, including research involving beef, sheep, poultry and even llamas. CEDAR recently celebrated it's 25th anniversary - read our report on the event here.
There are a number of ongoing CEDAR studies, including:
The DiverseForages Project
The DiverseForages Project is a five-year study (2016-2020) funded by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation club (SARIC), which is led by the University of Reading in collaboration with Duchy College, Rothamsted North Wyke, and Cotswold Seeds Ltd.
The project aims to compare the performance of more diverse, multiple species pastures with conventional fertilised ryegrass pasture within ruminant grazing systems. Diverse pastures (or 'herbal leys') provide greater resilience to extreme weather, deliver ecosystem services such as improved soil structure and local biodiversity, and do not require N fertilisation to grow, making them an extremely sustainable feed source for grazing ruminants. This project will add to existing knowledge on herbal leys by investigating best-practice agronomy and feeding strategies for three mixtures with increasing species complexity.
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 that has now been collected and will be used to model the effects of feeding reduced protein diets on both farm profitability and environmental impact of milk production at local and national levels.
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.
A 'LEAF' Innovation Centre
During 2017, CEDAR was successful in a bid to become a LEAF innovation centre.
The organisation LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) aims to promote the concept of Integrated Farm Management in which farming practices work in harmony with the environment.
It 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.
The Centre for Dairy Research joins a select group of prestigious educational organisations aligned with LEAF's mission of sustainable farming. The aim of the 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.
Key CEDAR contacts
Director of CEDAR: Professor Chris Reynolds
Research manager: Dr David Humphries
Research co-ordinator: Mr Barney Jones
CEDAR knowledge exchange co-ordinator: Dr Anna Thomson