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Professor Richard Dewhurst

Head of Dairy Research & Innovation Centre
Professor of Ruminant Nutrition & Production Systems
Future Farming Systems Group
Dairy Research & Innovation Centre / Beef & Sheep Research Centre


Research interests

My long-standing interest in less-invasive techniques to study ruminant nutrition has developed into a range of projects looking at biomarkers in accessible samples - including milk, urine, faeces and breath. The work is highly relevant to two major technological developments in animal science (i) the need for cheap and high-throughput phenotyping to exploit new genomic information; and (ii) rapid advances in the use of monitoring and sensing equipment on-farm (precision livestock farming).
My interests span rumen function, digestive efficiency and feed efficiency, with current projects on:

  • Gene-centric and 16S-based rumen metagenomics
  • Nitrogen isotopic fractionation as a marker for feed efficiency
  • Markers/proxies for rumen methane production, with a particular focus on techniques for grazing cattle: ether lipids; faecal NIR spectroscopy; isotopic fractionation
  • Diagnostic components of breath (hydrogen sulphide) and milk headspace (acetone)
  • High-throughput analysis of faeces (NIR; laser diffraction analysis)

I also have an enduring interest in ruminant fatty acid metabolism – herbage fatty acids; rumen biohydrogenation; fatty acids in milk and meat.                                                      

Previous work included modelling of forage composition, dry cow feeding strategies, forages and fatty acids, fatty acids and fertility, and rumen diagnostics. Some work used directly by the animal feed industry – notably feed evaluation systems, feed values and dry cow strategies. Much more of my work has been used by farmers and advisers – notably to develop advice and models to predict and increase forage intakes, improve the utilisation of feed protein (reduce N pollution), improve milk composition, and facilitate the use of forage legumes in conventional and organic farming.

Selected research projects

  • BBSRC: Understanding the functional and genomic architecture of the rumen microbiome affecting performance traits in bovines.
  • Innovate UK: Evaluating a potential proxy test for Feed Conversion Efficiency in beef cattle.
  • EU Horizon 2020: Development of an easy-to-use metagenomics platform for agricultural science.
  • DEFRA: Improving the sustainability and competitive position of the UK beef industry through selective breeding.
  • FACCE/JPI: RumenStability: Understanding the development and control of stability in the rumen microbiome as a basis for new strategies to reduce methanogenesis.

PhD students

  • Jenna Bowen
  • Irene Cabeza (Associate Supervisor)
  • Rhea Kyriazopoulou
  • Harry Kamilaris
  • Miguel Soley (Associate Supervisor)
  • Riccardo Bica

Selected publications

See all of Richard Dewhurst's publications.

Prof Richard Dewhurst

Head of Dairy Research & Innovation Centre, Professor of Ruminant Nutrition & Production Systems

Address: SRUC Future Farming Systems Group, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG

Telephone: 0131 535 4050

Fax: Mobile: 07887672267