Research Projects

Current Research Projects

The Centre for Agricultural Innovation works on a variety of research projects, collaborating with a range of commercial partners and working with students from across the College. 

Improving Profitability by Increasing the Lambing Percentage Project

Start Date: August 2014
This project is running for three years.

Project Overview

Bishop Burton’s sheep enterprise consists of 370 North Country mules and Texel crosses. The flock is another commercial enterprise making up the College farm. As part of the partnership with Asda, a trial was planned with collaborative partner, Dunbia to improve the productivity of the flock and monitor the weight increase of the lambs.

Planning for this project began in August with the selection process of certain tupps and mating was managed to produce lambs over the period mid-February through to late March.

The lambs were fitted with EID’s (Electronic Identification Tags) which identifies the ewe and tupp used and tracks their movements. The lambs are weighed on a regular basis and the recorded data enables the College to identify which matings resulted in the biggest live weight gains.

Project Objectives

The aim of this project is to record data detailing the reproductive performance of the flock, the quality of the lambs produced and the timescale of their readiness for market based on breeding selection.

Key Staff

  • Philip Richardson, Farm Manager
  • Kate Hughes, Research Assistant
  • Robert Lea, Dunbia


Start Date: 2011 
This project is running for five years.

Project Overview

The College farm has been part of a Food and Environment Agency (FERA) bench marking trial programme for several years now monitoring anthelmintic resistance in the sheep flock. The trials have resulted in changes to grazing and Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) management at the farm. The grazing system now being used is a rotational one with the sheep following on from cattle grazing and silage harvesting; there are also short term grass leys as break crops. The trials and resulting management changes have resulted in improved growth rates in the lambs allowing earlier readiness for market.

Project Objectives

The aim of this on-going project is to improve the parasitic resistance of the Bishop Burton flock, monitor and adapt grazing systems and improve growth rates in the lambs.

Key Staff

  • Colin Dennis, Farm Director
  • Philip Richardson, Farm Manager
  • Kate Hughes, Farm Administrator and Research Assistant
  • Tilly Stephens, FERA
  • Mark Howells of Howells Vets

Bonanza Milk Field Trial

Start Date: September 2016 

Project Overview

The milk powder is to be bagged into plain packaging.  The trial will commence once the calves have been fed colostrum in the first 24 hours and then weighed before being fed the milk powder diet.

The trial will be carried out by farm staff and Foundation Degree students giving them the opportunity to take part in a “blind” milk powder feeding trial.

The calves will be coded as A, B and C and fed as follows; calf will receive milk powder ‘A’, calf B will receive milk powder ‘B’ and calf C will be fed waste milk. All calves will go onto the commercial milk replacer from 11 days.

Project Objectives

  1. To evaluate if there are any performance or health differences occuring from feeding calves a specific transition replacement milk compared to a normal commercial milk replacer and
  2. To evaluate if the wearing of cosycalf jackets for five weeks lead to any performance or health differences. It has been agreed that the calf jackets will only be placed on calves when the weather cools significanlty.

Key Staff

  • Rhonda Thompson (CAI) 
  • Kate Hughes (CAI)
  • Phil Richardson (Assistant Farm Manager) 
  • Joe Murphy (Bonanza Calf Nutrition)
  • Dairy staff
  • Foundation Degree students

Rye Pig Feed Trial

Start Date: September 2016

Project Overview

Animal Management and Agriculture students will have the opportunity to take part in a rye feeding trial on the Bishop Burton College Farm pig unit from September 2016. Agrii, KWS and the local feed mill; Thompsons have been preparing a specialist diet for this feeding trial which will include rye instead of wheat.

Danish studies have shown rye inclusion rates of up to 20 - 25% in weaner diets and up to 60% in their finisher diets. Some of the advantages claimed from feeding this diet are that the livestock is ‘fuller’ for longer and that there are beneficial differences in animal behaviour.

The proposed trial will include 100 pigs fed on the existing diet with a further 100 being fed the rye based diet. As the pigs in this study would not have been previously given a weaner diet including rye, the inclusion rate for the finisher diet will be set at 25% initially.

Each pig will be weighed at the start and finish of the trial feeding period to record the “total start weight” and “total end weight” figures. The animals will also be split into separate groups of boars and gilts.

Key Staff:

  • Rhonda Thompson (CAI)
  • Kate Hughes (CAI)
  • Hannah Goacher (Bishop Burton Pig Unit)
  • Jim Carswell (Agrii Northern Research and Development Manager) 
  • Rose Riby (KWS Feed) 
  • Neil Johnson (WM Thompson Feeds)
  • Ellie Chapman (BSc Applied Animal Behaviour and Training student) 
  • Agriculture students