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Dr Poppy Statham

Dr Poppy Statham

Dr Poppy Statham
B.Sc.(Lanc.), M.Sc.(Edin.), PhD(Bristol)

Network Manager for Animal Welfare Research Network

Area of research

Farm Animal Welfare and Behaviour

Dolberry Building,
Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 928 9261

Summary

 

Farm Animal Welfare and Behaviour

 

Research keywords

  • Assessment of animal welfare
  • Development of abnormal behaviour especially tail-biting in pigs
  • Individual differences between animals
  • Outcome measures of welfare

 

Research findings

My PhD was in "Effects of experience and individuality on tail-biting in pigs". This longitudinal study followed over 700 undocked pigs from birth to slaughter weight in commercial conditions and examined the development and prediction of tail-biting, the effect of straw provision on their occurrence and why only some pigs bite and others get bitten. We varied the provision of bedding and recorded their position in the teat order (see photo below), weight, behaviour and performance in specifically designed propensity-to-chew tests (see photo below). 

Fourteen outbreaks occurred in total and there was considerable variation in the form of biting, number of biters, speed of development and level of damage (see example in photo below), suggesting that there may different outbreak types which require further detailed classification.

Raised activity levels were noted in the 72 hours prior to an outbreak. Behaviour observations indicated that the presence of damaging tail-biting and tail-tucked under postures were more prevalent in groups which went on to develop outbreaks of tail-biting. These measures have potential for prediction of some outbreaks. Further details are available in our article in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

In this particular study straw had limited effect on pigs' behaviour or on the occurrence of outbreaks. A number of possible explanations for this are being examined.

    

 Poppy Statham Pigs

 

Further information about Dr Poppy Statham can be found here.
 

Biography

I obtained an undergraduate degree in Ecology from the University of Lancaster in 1998. My favourite courses were those on animal behaviour and so after a short time working in the field of ecology I decided to study for the Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Edinburgh. This directed my interest in animal behaviour towards the field of animal welfare, something I have been working in ever since.

In my first research job I studied the ability of chickens to move between perches over different heights and distances at Heriot-Watt University. I then moved to the University of Bristol to work on a pre-weaning mortality study of pig farms in the UK, which enabled me to visit over 100 pig farms around the country and gain an understanding of the challenges of applying research to the real world. In 2004 I decided to study for a PhD, researching tail-biting behaviour in pigs, supervised by Professor Mike Mendl and Professor Laura Green. I still find the topic fascinating and hope to have the opportunity to research it further at some point.

After finishing my PhD I worked on a BBSRC funded project studying laying hen behaviour with Professor Christine Nicol. In this study we examined the correlation between welfare indicators and performance in preference tests, which included developing some novel techniques for measuring welfare in laying hens. I am currently working on two projects, the first being a DEFRA funded study into the risk factors associated with transport of sheep over short distances with Dr Toby Knowles. This is an exciting collaboration with the VLA and Cranfield University in which we will examine not just the welfare implications but also the environmental and economic impacts of different journey types. The second project that I am currently working on, is a study of the defence cascade as an indicator of pig welfare with Professor Mike Mendl. We are collaborating with the Computing Department in order to try to develop an automated measure of welfare.

Activities / Findings

 

  Establishing teat ordersChew tests to predict tail-bitingTail-bitten pig

Keywords

  • Assessment of animal welfare
  • Development of abnormal behaviour especially tail-biting in pigs
  • Individual differences between animals
  • Outcome measures of welfare

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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