Scotland’s Rural College


SRUC exists to deliver comprehensive skills, education and business support for Scotland’s land-based industries, founded on world class and sector-leading research, education and consultancy. The integration of these three complementary ‘knowledge exchange’ services is of significant value to all with an interest in land-based activities – be they learners, businesses, communities or policy makers. It is unique in Scotland and one of the largest organisations of its kind in Europe. The impact of SRUC research was recognised in the most recent UK Research Excellence Framework assessment, where veterinary and agricultural research at the University of Edinburgh and SRUC was ranked as most powerful. Teaching and learning activities cover the range from skills-based training for apprentices through to PhD programmes. SRUC places a high priority on knowledge transfer and, for example, is in contact with around 80% of Scotland’s farmers through its consulting division.

Competence and main role(s) in the project

Most of the work for HoloRuminant will be conducted in SRUC’s Dairy Research & Innovation Centre and we will also draw on data and expertise from the Beef & Sheep Research Centre. SRUC’s main role is in leading the WP2 longitudinal study, including sampling from young stock being reared to join the Langhill breeding study, which is one of the longest running livestock breeding studies in the world (50 years in 2020) and involves comprehensive phenotyping during the first three lactations. This flagship herd was the basis for SRUC being awarded a Queens Anniversary Prize in 2017. We have also characterised the immune responses and mastitis incidence in this 200-cow herd and will use that information to guide sampling for work on mastitis susceptibility and microbiome in WP3. We will also contribute existing omics data and samples for further metabolomics analysis and the multi-layer analysis of microbiome effects from beef cattle phenotyped for feed efficiency and methane emissions in previous high-profile work (e.g., PLOS Genetics Award in 2017).

Project staff

Richard Dewhurst
Richard Dewhurst is Professor of Ruminant Nutrition & Production Systems and the Head of the Dairy Research Centre at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). He joined SRUC in 2013 and previously led research units in Wales, New Zealand, and Ireland. He sometimes describes his career as a tour of the English-speaking world! He received the Sir John Hammond Memorial Award in 2008 and has served as President of both the New Zealand Society of Animal Production and the British Society of Animal Science. For more than 30 years, he worked in different areas of ruminant nutrition, at the interfaces between nutrition, product composition and rumen function - including modelling of forage composition, dry cow feeding strategies, forages and fatty acids, fatty acids and fertility, and rumen diagnostics. Current research is developing markers for feed conversion efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions from ruminants and exploring host interactions with the intestinal microbiome. Richard is also involved in managing the long-running Langhill Dairy Cow breeding study, which is currently celebrating 50 years of activity. He enjoys working with colleagues from around the world in a series of major international collaborative projects, including: ‘Rumen Stability’ as part of the FACCE-JPI programme; EU Horizon 2020 ‘SmartCow’ and ‘Legumes Translated’ projects; and a new ERA-NET project (‘GrasTec‘) exploring precision technologies to reduce GHG emissions from grazing ruminants. He was Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Greenhouse Gases and Animal Agriculture Conference (Dublin; 2013) and is currently one of the Co-Chairs of the Global Research Alliance (GRA) Livestock Research Group (LRG) community. He was also (from 2016 to 2020) a Director of Agri-EPI Centre Limited.
Richard Dewhurst photo
Rainer Roehe
Rainer Roehe is Professor of Animal Genetics and Microbiome at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). He joined SRUC in 2004 having previously worked at the University of Kiel, Germany and in his early career as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the former Department of Animal and Poultry Science of the University of Guelph. His present main research interest is on the understanding of links between the rumen microbiome and methane emissions as well as performance traits, and how these links are affected by the animal genome. To identify these links, his team is investigating the symbiotic interactions between rumen microbiome and host animal considered as single ecological unit – the ‘holobiont’ – using different –omics technologies. Based on this research, his team has recently developed a cost-effective microbiome-driven breeding strategy to mitigate methane emissions with simultaneous improvement of feed conversion efficiency. This research is initiated by findings presented in his earlier publication entitled “Bovine host genetic variation influences rumen microbial methane production with best selection criterion for low methane emitting and efficiently feed converting hosts based on metagenomic gene abundance” which was awarded the PLOS Genetics Research Prize 2017 based on scientific excellence and community impact. He is leading the BBSRC-Genus link funded project ‘Elucidating bovine host genomic links with rumen microbial genes to improve sustainably feed conversion efficiency using unique selection criteria’ and are involved in international projects such as Novo Nordisk Foundation funded project on ‘Sustainable production of animals by optimizing the feed-microbiome-host axis’. He has published >140 refereed papers being >6800 cited and >270 conference papers.
Holly Ferguson
Holly Ferguson is a Precision Dairying Scientist at SRUC, with a background in metabolic diseases of ruminants and use of precision livestock farming (PLF) tools. Holly is currently working on PLF technologies for monitoring health and nutrition of cattle, rumen function and the ruminal microbiome, ruminant metabolic disorders (particularly ruminal acidosis in cattle), ruminant nutrition and dairying. Her research interests focus on bovine health and production, PLF use to improve health, welfare, production and emissions on farm, Scottish dairying, and innovative dairying systems. She has 4 refereed publications.
Holly Ferguson
Joana Lima
Joana Lima is a research fellow working at the Dairy Research Centre at SRUC, and in the HoloRuminant context, she will be working mostly on WP2, the investigation of ruminant microbiomes from a longitudinal perspective. She is a Biologist, and she recently finished her PhD focused on the associations between the gastrointestinal microbiome and animal host performance and health. Throughout this project, She had the opportunity to study the rumen microbiome in association with host performance traits, including feed conversion efficiency, average daily weight gain, daily feed intake, and residual feed intake, and to investigate the temporal stability of the rumen microbiome throughout the finishing phase in beef cattle. In relation to host animal health, She studied the influence of the presence of an abomasal parasite – Ostertagi ostertagia – on the rumen and caecum microbiomes of dairy cattle. Additionally, She explored the influence of using different bioinformatics tools to resolve 16S rRNA amplicons into taxonomic groups (e.g., genera), using data obtained from sampling pigs’ gastrointestinal tract (caecum, colon, and faeces). Up until now, Joana worked mostly with the rumen microbiome in beef cattle, but her interest includes everything microbiome, whether it is associated with an animal host such as a ruminant, or a lake, or a volcano. she is very happy to work on the HoloRuminant project, as I will have access to an unprecedently large and varied microbiome database, which she is sure will lead to very challenging analyses, exciting results, and substantial advances in the area. She has 2 refereed publications.