1 million donation to establish a ’living laboratory’ for livestock

A groundbreaking ’living laboratory’ for livestock will be established at the Bristol Veterinary School thanks to a 1 million donation from the John Oldacre Foundation. The John Oldacre Centre for Sustainability and Welfare in Dairy Production will tackle the global challenge of ethical food security and train the next generation of vets and agriculturalists to help address the major issues facing agriculture.

The world faces a huge problem of feeding an ever-expanding population with depleting agricultural resources. At the current growth rate, by 2050 the equivalent of four and a half additional planets will be needed to sustain everyone. Livestock farming is part of the issue, but more importantly part of the solution.

The John Oldacre Centre for Sustainability and Welfare in Dairy Production, which will be based within Wyndhurst Farm, the University of Bristol’s commercially run dairy unit at Langford, will be equipped with the latest data collection devices such as motion detection, GPS tracking and thermographic sensors to gather data that will identify and support changes in agricultural practices.

The Centre will bring together colleagues from engineering, data and behavioural sciences to use technology, such as motion sensing, to identify small behavioural and physiological changes at the beginning of a disease, such as mastitis. The Vet School is already working with colleagues in Life Sciences, using thermography as a novel way of predicting disease, which can reveal, very quickly, which cow is ill. The earlier a disease can be detected, the easier it is to treat effectively.

As well as being a research resource, the Centre will teach undergraduate and postgraduate students in animal production and livestock research, understanding and communicating data, and engagement with the wider farming community.

In honour of the donation, the School will support postgraduate studentships each year who will benefit from the educational resource that the legacy will provide.

The John Oldacre Centre for Sustainability and Welfare in Dairy Production aims to:

  • identify key problems and new research questions;
  • find new solutions to help address these problems;
  • educate future generations of students and equip them with an understanding in the field of sustainable dairy production and welfare;
  • share the benefits with the UK and global farming community.

Professor Richard Hammond, Head of the Bristol Veterinary School , said: "With over 50 years of world-leading teaching and research in animal welfare and farming, the Bristol Veterinary School can make a vital contribution to this critical challenge.

"Thanks to this generous donation from the John Oldacre Foundation, we can embark on pioneering new research that we hope will play a vital role in advancing sustainable farming and animal welfare and tackle some of the major agriculture issues that face the world today."

Henry Shouler, Chairman of Trustees of the John Oldacre Foundation, added: "The Trustees of the John Oldacre Foundation are delighted to have entered into an agreement with the Bristol Veterinary School that ensures John’s legacy is maintained in perpetuity through the research and experience of the Foundation scholarship recipients."

This donation marks a long-standing and greatly valued partnership between the John Oldacre Foundation and the University. Since 2003, the Foundation has supported the Vet School and helped to make a positive impact on farming practice by improving our understanding of the causes of disease and welfare problems in dairy cattle, sheep, and pigs.