Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Alastair Macrae

Personal Chair of Farm Animal Health and Production

Profile photo
Phone: 0131 651 7474Fax: 0131 651 7473

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh
Pathogenesis of gammaherpesvirus infection
Bachelors in Veterinary Medicine & Surgery, University of Edinburgh

Professional Qualifications

2018Diploma of Fellowship to RCVS by Meritorious Contributions to Clinical Practice, FRCVS
2017Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Authority , SFHEA
2016Diplomate of the European College of Small Ruminant Health Management, DipECSRHM (Non-practising)
2015Diplomate of the European College of Bovine Health Management, DipECBHM
2012Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, DCHP
2006Certificate in Cattle Health and Production, CertCHP
1998Certificate in Sheep Health and Production, CertSHP

Area of Expertise

Research expertiseDairy and Beef Cattle, Sheep, Nutrition, Disease

Current Research Interests

Monitoring of farm animal health including the links between nutrition, health and productivity in cattle and sheep.

Biography

I am Professor of Farm Animal Health and Production, and Head of the Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service (DHHPS) at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I am also Director of Farm Animal Veterinary Services, with overall daily management responsibility for the Farm Animal Practice as well as the DHHPS. I am Head of the Farm Animal section at the RDSVS

The DHHPS was started at the University in 1977 in conjunction with Dalgety Animal Feeds, and continues to provide independant consultancy advice to dairy, beef and sheep farms on all aspects of health and productivity with the aim of preventing disease and maximising farm profitability. The DHHPS undertakes metabolic profile blood testing on approximately 9,000 dairy cows each year, and also provides a herd health recording service monitoring trends in culling and disease in UK dairy herds.

I am also involved in teaching undergraduate veterinary students in all years of the BVM&S course at Edinburgh, as well as agriculture students at SRUC. My main research interests include cattle and sheep nutrition and its effects on productivity and disease, as well as the welfare of the dairy cow and her calf around calving. I hold further veterinary postgraduate qualifications including the RCVS Certificate in Sheep Health and Production, and RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production.

Qualifications

Jun 2018 Diploma of Fellowship to RCVS by Meritorious Contributions to Clinical Practice

Oct 2017 Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Authority

April 2016 Diplomate of the European College of Small Ruminant Health Management (Non-practising)

July 2015 Diplomate of the European College of Bovine Health Management

July 2012 Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, RCVS

Sept 2006 Certificate in Cattle Health and Production, RCVS

July 2002 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in molecular virology from the University of Edinburgh.

Sept 1998 Certificate in Sheep Health and Production, RCVS

July 1995 Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (with distinction) from the University of Edinburgh

Websites

Research Interests

Ruminant Nutrition, and links to production diseases in cattle and sheep

Nutrition in both late pregnancy and during lactation can have major influences on the susceptibility of animals to disease, productivity and fertility – especially in high yielding dairy cows, pregnant cattle and sheep. My research is aimed at monitoring ruminant nutrition, in order to try and prevent disease occurring, as well as reduce the economic losses that occur as a result of subclinical disease. As well as publications in this area, my work in this field has resulted in a number of successful collaborations with commercial feed companies such as Davidsons Animal Feeds and Bioparametrics.

Monitoring of farm animal health and welfare

In the past 20 years, most farming operations in developed countries such as the UK have increased their animal numbers and reduced staff, resulting in more animals per unit of labour. This has resulted in an increased requirement for remote monitoring of livestock health and productivity using prevision farming technologies and data analysis. Funding with ITI Techmedia and EASTBio BBSRC iCASE PhD studentship have developed sensor technology for the monitoring of dairy cow health. Collaborative work with SRUC has looked at the effect of difficult calvings on cow and calf health, as well as the effects of potentially stressful management practices such as overcrowding cows during late pregnancy.

Infectious disease control in farm animals

Although Notifiable Diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and Foot and Mouth Disease attract the majority of headlines, more common diseases such as mastitis, lameness and other infectious diseases cost the UK livestock industry much more money on an ongoing annual basis due to their reduction in animal productivity. Protozoal infections such as Neospora in cattle and Toxoplasma in sheep result in loss of pregnancy, and collaborative work with the Moredun Research Institute and Zoetis is looking to develop techniques for the diagnosis of such protozoal infections in ruminants.

Knowledge Transfer to farmers and the agricultural industry

Although new research work is key to our understanding of diseases and their pathogenesis, major improvements could be made by the application of existing knowledge and “best practice” on farms to reduce the impact of common diseases such as mastitis and lameness in dairy cows, as well as infectious diseases such as Johne’s Disease. I am therefore heavily involved in Knowledge Exchange with dairy, beef and sheep farmers throughout the UK to implement change on UK farms. For example I have been part of Scottish national KT projects such as the Paraban and Paraban Reloaded projects (2011-2015), which were collaborative projects with SRUC, University of Glasgow and James Hutton Institute based on Knowledge Exchange of information on paratuberculosis (Johnes disease) control in Scottish dairy and beef herds.

Research Groups

SRUC Animal Behaviour & Welfare Group (Dr Marie Haskell and Dr Kenny Rutherford)

SRUC Dairy Research Centre at Crichton Royal (Dr David Roberts and Prof Richard Dewhurst)

SRUC Epidemiology Research Group (Prof George Gunn)

Moredun Research Institute (Dr Francesca Chianini and Dr Frank Katzer)

University of Glasgow Veterinary School (Prof David Eckersall)

Research students

PhD Principal supervisor

Hanna Miedema, PhD entitled “The development of a system for the prediction of parturition in dairy cows”. 2006 – 2009. PhD awarded.

Virgilio Ambriz-Vilchis, PhD entitled "The impact of dietary manipulation of pH flux on herd health and productivity". 2011 - 2016. PhD awarded.

Tanja Lepore, PhD entitled "Specific diagnostic tests for protozoal infections of ruminants". BBSRC iCASE studentship with Zoetis. Moredun Research Institute. 2014 - present 

Rosie Barraclough, PhD entitled “Use of advanced technologies to enhance monitoring of dairy cow health”. BBSRC EastBio DTP CASE studentship, awarded with Icerobotics. 2016 - present

PhD Co-supervisor

Alice Barrier, PhD (in conjunction with SAC/SRUC; Dr Marie Haskell) "Effect of a difficult calving on the subsequent health and welfare of the dairy cow and calf". 2008 - 2012. PhD awarded

Mayumi Fujiwara, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Kenny Rutherford) "Impacts of stress and nutrition during the dry period on dairy calf health, welfare and production" 2014 - 2017. PhD awarded

Lorna Paton, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Cath Milne) “Understanding antibiotic usage on farms – improving usage and reducing the speed of antibiotic resistance”. Part-time SRUC staff. 2015 – present.

Rhea Kyriazopoulou, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Prof Richard Dewhurst) “Stress effects on the ovine rumen microbiome”. 2015 – present.

Miguel Somarriba Soley, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Simon Turner) “Effects of stress on the ruminal microbial environment and its relationship to feed efficiency and methane emissions”. 2016 – present.

David Bell, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Marie Haskell) “Respiratory disease in calves: ventilation, thermal comfort and disease transmission”. 2016 – present.

Riccardo Bica, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Prof Richard Dewhurst) “Short-term measurements and proxies for ruminant methane emissions”. 2016 – present.

Rita Cardoso Ribeiro, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Harriet Auty) “Predicting Lyme Disease risk: Improving the knowledge of Ixodes ricinus and Borrelia burgdorferi dynamics in Scotland through structured data collection and citizen science”. Funded by SRUC. 2017 – present.

Francesca Shepherd, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Spiridoula Athanasiadou) “Development of strategies to replace anthelmintic use in livestock production”. Funded by SRUC. 2018 – present
 
MSc by Research

Daniel Chumia, MSc by Research (in conjunction with SAC/SRUC).”Factors influencing culling in 1st lactation dairy heifers”. 2010-2011. MSc awarded

David Bell, MSc by Research (in conjunction with SAC/SRUC). "Influences of Loafing Area Use by Continuously Housed Dairy Cows" Part time. 2011-13. MSc awarded

Teaching

GEP

The Animal Body; Animal Health, Welfare & Food Safety; Professional & Clinical Skills GEP

Year 1

Animal Health, Welfare & Food Safety 1

Year 2

Animal Health, Welfare & Food Safety 2; Professional & Clinical Skills 2

Year 4

Farm Animal; Veterinary Public Health

Year 5

Final Year Rotations; Student Selected Component 2

My research in a nutshell

My research work is focused on the common diseases in cattle and sheep which farmers encounter on a daily basis all over the world. These include mastitis, lameness and infertility in dairy cows, as well as young calf and lamb losses early in life. Nutrition in both late pregnancy and during milk production can have major influences on the susceptability of animals to disease, especially in high yielding dairy cows who require vast amounts of energy in particular to meet the nutritional demands of milk production. If these energy demands are not met, the cows mobilise body reserves to meet any shortfall, and this situation can have harmful effects on milk production, cow health and long-term fertility. My research looks at monitoring these nutritional issues, in order to try and prevent disease occuring, as well as reduce the economic losses that occur as a result of subclinical disease.

To hear me talking more about my work, visit the following link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01r95h0

Clinical Expertise and Specialisation

I hold the RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, and RCVS Certificate in Sheep Health and Production. My main clinical areas of focus include ruminant nutrition, disease prevention and control, and the economic costs of disease on dairy, beef and sheep farms.

Administrative Roles

Farm Animal Practice / DHHPS, UG teaching staff,  PG teaching admin, Student support

Production Animal

Farm Animal Practice/DHHPS, Farm Animal Hospital

School

UG Teaching Staff, Admissions, Pre-Clinical Teaching, Farm Animal Teaching

Other Administrative Roles

• Head of Farm Animal Section

• Director of Farm Animal Veterinary Services

• Personal Tutor for BVM&S undergraduate students

One day teaching on clinical dairy cow nutrition and metabolic profiles to Royal Veterinary College elective students in Final Year (2008 - 2018).

• Exam Board Chair for PGT Course MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare

• External Examiner for BVMSI and II Animal Husbandry Course at Glasgow University Veterinary School (2009 - 2014)

• External Examiner for Final Year at University of Nottingham (2015 - present)

• Teach on SRUC Year 3 Agriculture Course on "Advanced Livestock Management Issues"

Postgraduate teaching

I have taught on a large number of veterinary Continuing Professional Development courses, including:

• Modular Course in preparation for the Certificate in Sheep Health and Production. 2003/04, 2005/06, 2006/07. 3 or 5 modules, each consisting of 2 days. University of Edinburgh.

• MRCVS examination – preparation course. April 2004, 2005, 2006. University of Edinburgh

• Veterinary Role in Nutrition and Fertility Management in Dairy Cows. 2004, 2005, 2006. University of Edinburgh.

• Improve CPD Course. 2007, 2009. Dairy Cow Nutrition.

• BCVA Advanced Practitioner Beef & Bull Course 2018, Youngstock Course 2017

• Harper Adams University PGT Course on Ruminant Nutrition (2015 - 2018)

Principal supervision of Resident in Farm Animal Health and Production (Cattle), and co-supervision of Resident in Farm Animal Health and Production (Sheep)

Involved in numerous talks/lectures for farmers and nutritional advisors on topics including dairy cow and sheep nutrition, mastitis control, herd health, lameness control and sheep management.

I am involved in the following committees at the RDSVS, University of Edinburgh:

  • Clinical Skills Committee
  • Farm Teaching Group
  • Clinical Training Scholarship Committee

I am currently the Honorary Treasurer of the RDVC RFC and a Trustee of the James Grant Speed Trust.

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