The Queen’s-AFBI Strategic Alliance is celebrating after two of its proposals secured prestigious funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), as part of an £11.5M UK Government campaign to ‘revolutionise UK livestock’ and improve animal health.
The successful projects, both of which are partnerships between Queen’s University and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), will join 12 other research projects shortlisted from around the UK in Phase 2 of the UK Government’s Endemic Livestock Disease Initiative. Phase 2 unlocks £9M of funding.
In Northern Ireland, DAERA is also involved in co-funding the initiative alongside Defra and the Scottish Government with a total of over £1.7M allocated for the two Queen’s-AFBI projects.
One project will focus on endemic infections in ruminant livestock, while the other will be concerned with commercially farmed chicken health and welfare. The agrifood and animal-health industries, farmers, vets, diagnostic laboratories and policymakers will also be involved in the research.
The successful bids mark a major boost for the Queen’s-AFBI Alliance, which seeks to drive a more sustainable agrifood sector by pooling expertise, resources and research capability in NI and providing UK and international leadership in response to major challenges in agriculture and food security.
The UK Government campaign is aimed at improving farm productivity as well as health and welfare of UK herds by reducing the burden of endemic disease, while also seeking to minimise the environmental impact of the livestock sector.
The Co-Adapt project will be led by Professor Eric Morgan and Prof Ilias Kyriazakis of the Institute for Global Food Security and School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University. It seeks to better understand and manage co-infections in livestock, focusing on gastrointestinal disease in sheep and cattle.
The second project, Runting Stunting Syndrome in Broilers, will be led by Dr Victoria Smyth from AFBI to investigate stunting in broiler flocks, a condition with a significant impact on the poultry industry.
Prof Morgan from Queen’s said Co-Adapt “will determine how altered timing of infections as a result of climate warming is giving rise to new parasite and pathogen combinations and develop methods to manage them successfully in an era of increasing drug resistance.”
Dr Smyth of AFBI said: “I am delighted to lead this important project, which will see AFBI and Queen’s researchers using novel, ground-breaking methods & technologies supported by established scientific expertise to study this condition which is responsible for substantial welfare and economic consequences in broiler flocks in the UK.”
The 14 successful projects span the breadth of UK livestock and include research focus on beef and dairy cattle, poultry, sheep and pigs. Investment for the projects is variously distributed by BBSRC, Defra, DAERA and the Scottish Government.