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Prof Cathy Dwyer

Team Leader
Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Animal & Veterinary Sciences

Research interests 

I have a long standing research interest into the interactions between mother and their offspring. This covers the period before birth when the fetus is developing, the complex and dynamic changes that occur at birth, how the mother and offspring develop a bond between one another, and the consequences of this for offspring survival and development.

My work in this area has spanned basic science understanding of the neurobiological factors mediating differences in behaviour, to applied studies which seek to improve offspring survival on farm through improved management and genetic selection for key traits.

My current work in this area considers the benefits of experiencing maternal care for the offspring that extend beyond just nutrition and encompass security, protection and stress-buffering.

I also work in the area of animal welfare, particularly of extensively managed animals, and how welfare of animals in these challenging environments can be reliably monitored and assessed. In collaboration with scientists in Spain and Italy as part of the EU FP7 ‘AWIN’ project, and colleagues at SRUC, I have been involved in the development of a validated protocol to assess the welfare of sheep. 

In this context, my research is currently focused on the impact on sheep welfare of different management practices in farming systems, and how this relates to other public goods, such as measures of biodiversity and sustainability.

Selected research projects

  • Welfare Assessment Techniques
    Investigating the role of maternal care in positive welfare, and the welfare costs of disease. Scottish Government funded, RD2.2.7, with Prof Alistair Lawrence, Dr Emma Baxter at SRUC and Dr Stew Burgess at Moredun
  • Improved husbandry and reduction in painful procedures
    Addressing alternatives to painful husbandry procedures in sheep. Scottish Government funded, RD2.2.8, with Dr Rick D’Eath at SRUC.
  • Collaborative development of positive welfare indicators
    Scottish Government CRF in collaboration with Prof David Main (University of Bristol), and Profs Francoise Wemelsfelder and Alistair Lawrence, Dr Marie Haskell, and Dr Jill MacKay at SRUC.
  • Developing a virtual Centre for Animal Welfare Science Excellence
    SFC funded project with Dr Jill Mackay, SRUC and Prof Natalie Waran at the Jean Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, R(D)SVS.
  • Ewe and lamb behaviour and lamb mortality during the periparturient period
    Collaborative project and Walsh Fellowship with Dr Tim Keady, Teagasc, Ireland.


I teach the biology of animal suffering on the MSc in Applied Animal Behaivour and Animal Welfare at the University of Edinburgh and also on the online MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law at University of Edinburgh. I supervise undergraduate projects for both SRUC and University of Edinburgh and MSc dissertation projects. 

PhD students

  • Susan Richmond
    Development of welfare assessment protocols for extensively managed sheep; funded by EU FP7 (with Prof Francoise Wemelsfelder and Dr Jo Conington.
  • Kasia Maslowska
    Assessment of the efficacy of alternatives to physical castration for the welfare of male lambs; funded by Zoetis Animal Health (with Dr Kenny Rutherford and Prof Eddie Clutton, R(D)SVS)
  • Leonor Valente
    Investigating the effects of prenatal stress on neonatal lamb behaviour and epigenetic mechanisms (with Dr Kenny Rutherford, Prof Kevin Sinclair and Dr Carl Stevenson, University of Nottingham).
  • Nadiah Yusof
    The impact of maternal gestational stress on the expression of maternal care in ewes (with Dr Susan Jarvis).
  • Rhea Kyriazpouolou
    Interactions between stress and the microbiome (with Prof Richard Dewhurst, Dr Alain Boissy and Dr Diego Morgavi, INRA)

Selected publications

  • Dwyer, C.M., Conington, J., Corbière, F., Holmøy, I.H., Muri, K., Rooke, J., Vipond, J. & Gauthier, J.-M. 2016, Invited Review: Improving neonatal survival in small ruminants: science into practice. Animal 10(3), 449-459. 
  • Baxter, E.M, Mulligan, J., Hall, S.A., Donbavand, J.E., Zanella, A.J. & Dwyer, C.M. 2016. Positive and negative gestational handling influences placental traits and mother-offspring behavior in dairy goats. Physiology & Behavior (in press). 
  • Futro, A., Mas?owska, K., Dwyer C.M. 2015. Ewes direct most maternal attention towards lambs that show the greatest pain-related behavioural responses. PLoS ONE 10, e0134024.
  • Rooke, J.A., Dwyer, C.M., Arnott, G.A, & Rutherford, K.M.D. 2015. The importance of the gestation period for welfare of lambs: maternal stressors and lamb vigour and well-being. Journal of Agricultural Science 153, 497-519.
  • Dwyer, C.M. 2014. Maternal behaviour and lamb survival: From neuroendocrinology to practical application. Animal 8, 102-112.

See all of Prof Cathy Dwyer's publications.

Prof Cathy Dwyer

Team Leader - Animal Behaviour & Welfare

Address: Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Telephone: 0131 651 9337

Fax: 0131 535 3121