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Dr Simon Turner

Senior Researcher
Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Research interests 

 My research interest lies in understanding the causes and consequences of individual differences in social behaviour (pigs) and the response to human handling (beef cattle).
Alongside colleagues, my research also addresses long-standing welfare issues by assessing the role that selective breeding can play in producing animals more suited to the environments in which they are housed. I work closely with major breeding companies developing approaches to measure behaviour and welfare on large numbers of animals and assessing the likely success and wider implications of breeding for novel traits.

Current areas of work with pigs focus on:

  • using game theory approaches to understand assessment abilities  during aggressive contests and how these are modified by life experiences
  • quantifying the genomic contribution to aggressiveness
  • assessing the likely impacts of selective breeding against highly aggressive personalities for economically important traits
  • understanding how aggressive strategies trade-off across time and social context
  • developing recommendations for the most cost-effective management interventions that can reduce aggression

On beef cattle I have an interest in:

  • understanding how poor temperament of cows in response to handling can affect the development of their calves
  • quantifying how stress responsiveness in cattle affects their feed use efficiency and methane emissions and the mechanisms behind this

Selected research projects

  • Understanding assessment strategies during aggressive encounters in pigs to improve welfare following regrouping.
    The project investigates pigs’ abilities to assess opponents during contests and how this is modulated by aggressiveness and previous experience (BBSRC funded).
  • Reducing production losses using behavioral and genomic tools to identify pigs suited to group living
    The project examines the genomic basis to aggressive personalities in pigs (led by Michigan State University; funded by USDA, National Pork Board and Rackham Foundation)
  • Understanding the contribution of cattle behaviour to variations in feed efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions and the welfare consequences of improving environmental sustainability
    The project examined how stress responsiveness and individual feeding behaviour underlies variations in environmental sustainability in beef cattle (EU funded)
  • Balancing short and long-term aggression in pigs to maximise welfare and productivity
    A Walsh Fellowship PhD (collaboration with Teagasc) determining the behavioural strategies of pigs that avoid injuries from aggression across time and social contexts.
  • Demand driven solutions to reduce aggression between pigs.
    An SRUC PhD studentship examining farmer perceptions of aggression and the most economically cost-effective method to reduce it on farms.


I am a course organiser on the MSc programme on Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare and also teach on the on-line MSc programme on International Animal Welfare Ethics and Law. Both of these programmes are run collaboratively between SRUC and the University of Edinburgh. I also teach applied ethology to undergraduate degree programmes within SRUC and the University of Edinburgh.  

PhD students

  • Simone Foister
    Balancing short and long-term aggression in pigs to maximise welfare and productivity (funded by Walsh Fellowship)
  • Miguel Somarriba Soley
    The effects of stress on the ruminal microbial environment in beef cattle and its relationship to feed efficiency and methane emissions (funded by the government of Costa Rica)
  • Student to be appointed
    Demand driven solutions to reduce aggression between pigs (funded by SRUC).

Selected publications

  • Camerlink, I., Turner, S. P., Farish, M., & Arnott, G. 2015. Aggressiveness as a component of fighting ability in pigs using a game-theoretical framework. Animal Behaviour, 108, 183-191.
  • Desire, S., Turner, S.P., D’Eath, R.B., Doeschl-Wilson, A.B., Lewis, C.R.G. and Roehe, R. 2015. Genetic associations of short- and long-term aggressiveness identified by skin lesions with growth, feed efficiency and carcass characteristics in growing pigs. Journal of Animal Science, 93: 3303-3312.
  • Desire, S, Turner, S.P., D’Eath, R.B., Doeschl-Wilson, A.B., Lewis, C.R.G. and Roehe, R. 2015.  Analysis of the phenotypic link between behavioural traits at mixing and increased long-term social stability. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 166: 52-62.
  • Llonch, P., Lawrence, A.B., Haskell, M.J., Blanco-Penedo, I. and Turner, S.P. 2015. The need for a quantitative assessment of animal welfare trade-offs in climate change mitigation scenarios. Advances in Animal Biosciences, 6: 9-11.
  • Turner, S.P., Jack, M.C. and Lawrence, A.B. 2013.  Pre-calving temperament and maternal defensiveness are independent traits but pre-calving fear may impact on calf growth.  Journal of Animal Science, 91: 1-9.

See all of Dr Simon Turner's publications.

Dr Simon Turner

Senior Researcher

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

Telephone: 0131 651 9359

Fax: 0131 535 3121