Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

For latest Covid-19 information click on the link below.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update.

Dr Rick D'Eath

Reader in Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Animal & Veterinary Sciences

Research interests

As a behavioural scientist, I study behaviour as a way of measuring Animal Welfare, and to understand and solve welfare problems which involve behaviour in captive animals, particularly farmed livestock.

My research interests include:

1) Behavioural problems in pig groups: particularly

  • Social aggression (fighting and bullying), where I have long-standing collaboration with SRUC colleague Dr Simon Turner, looking for genetic and management solutions and seeking to understand how pigs assess each other during fights.
  • Tail biting. Identifying practical means to predict, detect and prevent tail biting on farm. In collaboration with Danish Pig Research Centre and Teagasc in Ireland.

2) The problem of hunger in feed-restricted broiler breeders and dry (lactating) sows. These animals have high growth potential but must be rationed to be healthy adults. Can we find diets which restrict energy to ensure good health without chronic hunger?

3) The use of technology to improve management and welfare by monitoring behaviour on-farm. Developing machine-vision approaches based on video technology to automate behaviour recording.

Selected research projects

  • Investigating how the type and quantity of food affect foraging behaviour and the neural circuits controlling feeding in broiler breeder chickens
    Does high fibre ‘bulky’, low protein or higher growth curve diets increase satiety in these feed-restricted birds? (Dr Laura Dixon, BBSRC, 2013-2017, with Roslin and Newcastle).
  • Welfare assessment techniques Obj 5 Development of ‘automatic’ assessment approaches
    Annotation of pig behaviour in video files is a pre-requisite for automation of those behaviours by technology collaborators (Scottish Government RD2.2.7, 2016-2021).
  • Improved husbandry and reduction of painful procedures  Obj 1 Food restriction in pregnant sows
    EU directives require fibre in sow diets to increase satiety. How are the industry implementing this and does it work? (Scottish Government RD2.2.8, 2016-2021).
  • Early detection of tail biting in pigs using 3D video to measure tail posture
    Tail posture changes before tail biting outbreaks. Can we detect automatically and develop an early warning system for farmers? (Dr Emma Baxter, Innovate UK Agri-Tech Catalyst with Innovent Technology Ltd, Agri-EPI Ltd, Harbro, Sainsbury’s Supermarket Ltd).


  • MSc Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare (University of Edinburgh): Course organiser for ‘Scientific Methodology’, Teaching on Experimental design and statistics and on Hunger.
  • MSc International Animal Welfare, Ethics & Law (University of Edinburgh, Online): ‘Science and Animal Welfare’ unit organiser.
  • Supervision of dissertation students for these MSc courses.

PhD students

  • Gillian Cherrie
    Understanding satiety in broiler breeders during rearing and application to commercial diets
    These birds must be rationed to ensure health, but want more food. Working with industry to develop and test diets and growth curves to improve satiety and welfare.
    (2015-2019 BBSRC CASE with Aviagen and Roslin, University of Edinburgh)
  • Jen yun Chou
    Strategies to reduce the risk of tail biting in pigs managed on slatted floors
    Pigs need materials to root and chew but loose materials such as straw are not practical. Investigating wood and other materials. (2015-2019 Walsh fellowship with Teagasc and University of Edinburgh)
  • Helle Pelant Lahrmann
    Tail biting- early recognition and targeted prevention
    Can we identify the early signs of tail biting in time to intervene and prevent outbreaks? (Danish Innovation Fund, Scottish Government RD2.3.1, 2016-2021, SEGES Pig Research Centre, University of Copenhagen)

Selected publications

  • Desire, S., Turner, S.P., D’Eath, R.B., Doeschl-Wilson, A.B., Lewis, C.R.G., & Roehe, R. 2015. Genetic associations of short- and long-term aggressiveness identified by skin lesion with growth, feed efficiency and carcass characteristics in growing pigs. Journal of Animal Science 93 (7), 3303 - 3312
  • D’Eath, R.B., Arnott, G., Turner, S.P., Jensen, T., Lahrmann, H.P., Busch, M.E., Niemi, J.K., Lawrence, A.B., Sandøe, P. 2014. Injurious tail biting in pigs: how can it be controlled in existing systems without tail docking? Animal 8 (9), 1479-1497.
  • Dixon, L. M., Brocklehurst, S., Sandilands, V., Bateson, M., Tolkamp, B. J., and D'Eath, R. B. 2014. Measuring motivation for appetitive behaviour: Food-restricted broiler breeder chickens cross a water barrier to access a foraging area without food. PLoS ONE 9(7), e102322
  • •Dunn, I.C., Wilson, P.W., Smulders, T.V., Bateson, M., D'Eath, R.B., Boswell, T. 2013. Hypothalamic agouti-related protein expression is altered by both acute and chronic experience of food restriction and re-feeding in broiler chickens. Journal of Neuroendocrinology 25 (10), 920-928
  • D’Eath, R.B., Tolkamp, B.J., Kyriazakis, I. & Lawrence, A.B. 2009. ‘Freedom from hunger’ and preventing obesity: The animal welfare implications of reducing food quantity or quality. Animal Behaviour 77(2), 275-288

See all of Dr Rick D'Eath's publications.

Dr Rick D'Eath

Reader in Animal Behaviour & Welfare

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

Telephone: 0131 651 9356

Fax: 0131 535 3121