Department: Pathobiology & Population Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Animal Welfare Science and Ethics, Sustainable Food Systems, IRLFS (Research Programme)

Research Centres: RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics

Nicola is a senior lecturer in Production Animal Science.  She is particularly interested in the husbandry of farm animals and how this can impact on their health and welfare. Her research is based around the use of novel technology to improve welfare and production of farm animals.  Further research interest include the nutrition of the young animal - particularly weaning strategies for dairy calves and pigs.

Nicola has worked on a number of livestock units prior to graduating from Harper Adams University in 2003 with a BSc in Agriculture with Animal Science.  She then had position as a research technician in the at CEDAR (University of Reading), during this time she worked predominantly with dairy cattle and calves.  

Nicola's PhD (Writtle University College/ University of Essex, 2009) was supervised by Dr Jes Scaife, Dr Emma Bleach (Harper Adams University) and Dr Jonathan Amory (Writtle University College).   Nicola's PhD entitled "Assessing the impact of lameness on gait and behaviour of dairy cattle: Development of an automated lameness detection system"  started her interest in technology and its uses to improve animal behaviour monitoring, this was undertaken in conjunction with IceRobotics.  Nicola then took up a position as a Research Assistant then Lecturer at Writtle University College where she taught livestock production and welfare.  Nicola was also course manager for Undergraduate Agriculture at Writtle University College. 

Nicola joined the RVC in December 2017.


Nicola's research is focused on ways to improve welfare on commercial farms.  She has studied nutritional and enrichment strategies to improve production and welfare of young pigs and calves.   Nicola has supervised a PhD project on the effects of lameness on oestrus detection in dairy cattle (Amanda Ward).   Nicola is currently supervising three PhD students, one is looking at calf housing; one is looking at Colostrum managment and the other looking at material behaviour in mares.

Full list can be found on ResearchGate 

Journal Papers:

Mahendran SA, Wathes DC, Booth RE, Blackie N. Effects of the Individual and Pair Housing of Calves on Long-Term Heifer Production on a UK Commercial Dairy Farm. Animals. 2024; 14(1):125.

Whatford, L, Chivers, B.D., Rowe, M. and Blackie, N. 2023. "A Survey of the Current Farming Practices and Perceptions on Adopting Orphan Lambs in the United Kingdom: How Do “Ewe” Do It?" Ruminants 3, no. 4: 468-482.

Middleton, A, Blackie, N., Crilly, JP, Reilly, B. (2023) Survey of current UK alpaca husbandry practices: Vaccination, treatment and supplementation. Vet Rec. 2023;e3602.

Mahendran, S.A.; Wathes, D.C.; Blackie, N.; Booth, R.E. (2023). Calf Health, Feeding and Social Behaviours within Groups Fed on Automatic Milk Feeders. Ruminants3, 266-285.

Mahendran, S.A.; Wathes, D.C.; Booth, R.E.; Baker, N.; Blackie, N. (2023) Effects of Individual and Pair Housing of Calves on Short-Term Health and Behaviour on a UK Commercial Dairy Farm. Animals, 13, 2140.

Prior, S.; Blackie, N.; Fishwick, J.; Mahendran, S.A. (2023). Randomised Control Trial Investigating the Efficacy of Meloxicam and Sodium Salicylate Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Calf Cautery Disbudding. Animals, 13, 1768.

Mahendran, S.A.; Blackie, N., Wathes, D.C. and Booth, R.E. (2023). Comparison of environment quality measurements between 3 types of calf housing in the United Kingdom. Journal of Dairy Science. 106 (4), 2461-2474.

Lindley, G.; Booth, R.E.; Mahendran, S.A.; Wathes, D.C. and Blackie, N. (2023). Colostrum quality and composition. Livestock. 28:1, 6-12.

Coe, A. and Blackie, N. (2022). Comparison of Low- and High-Cost Infrared Thermal Imaging Devices for the Detection of Lameness in Dairy Cattle. Veterinary Sciences, 9 (8), 414.

Hall, L.E., Reilly, B and Blackie, N. (2022). Survey on vaccination technique in UK sheep farmers and the impact of training. Veterinary Record e1798. 

Roslan, N.A; Blackie, N., Slack, D.; Abu-Basha, E.A.; Ismail, Z.B., Guitian, J. and Gibson, T.J. (2022). Student perceptions of the introduction of pig production, management and health teaching into the veterinary curriculum of a Muslim-majority country: a case study in Jordan. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. (Advance Article Online).

Owen, K.; Blackie, N.; Gibson, T.J. (2022). The Effect of Needle Reuse on Piglet Skin Puncture Force. Veterinary Sciences. 9, 90. 

Mahendran, S.A.; Wathes, D.C.; Booth, R.E.; Blackie, N.  (2022). A survey of calf management practices and farmer perceptions of calf housing in UK dairy herds. Journal of Dairy Science. 105 (1), 409.

Ji, K.J.; Booth, R.E.; Blackie, N. (2021). A Retrospective Case Study into the Effect of Hoof Lesions on the Lying Behaviour of Holstein–Friesian in a Loose-Housed System. Animals, 11, 1120.

Mahendran, S.A.; Wathes, D.C.; Booth, R.E.; Blackie, N. (2021). The Health and Behavioural Effects of Individual Versus Pair Housing of Calves at Different Ages on a UK Commercial Dairy Farm. Animal, 11, 612.

Collins, E.B.; Blackie, N. (2021). The Impacts of Waterproof Insulated Jackets on Lamb Performance on a UK Lowland Farm. Animals, 11, 217.

Blackie, N. (2019). In newborn piglets does drying versus no intervention reduce the risk of mortality pre-weaning?. Veterinary Evidence, 4(4).

Blackie, N., Maclaurin, L. (2019). Influence of Lameness on the Lying Behaviour of Zero-Grazed Lactating Jersey Dairy Cattle Housed in Straw Yards. Animals. 9, 829.

Blackie, N., de Sousa, M. (2019) The Use of Garlic Oil for Olfactory Enrichment Increases the Use of Ropes in Weaned Pigs. Animals. 9, 148.

Onyango, J., Blackie, N. and De Luna C. (2014) Risk factors for postpartum uterine infections in dairy herds. International Journal of Livestock Research. 4(3)

Blackie N., Bleach E.C.L, Amory J.R and Scaife J.R. (2013) Associations between locomotion score and kinematic measures in dairy cows with varying hoof lesion types. Journal of Dairy Science 96

Blackie N., Amory J.R, Bleach E.C.L and Scaife J.R. (2011) The effect of lameness on lying behaviour of zero grazed Holstein dairy cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 134

Blackie N., Bleach E.C.L, Amory J.R and Scaife J.R. (2011) Impact of lameness on gait characteristics and lying behaviour of dairy cattle in early lactation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 129

Blackie, N., Scaife, J. R., Bleach, E. C. L. (2006) Lying behaviour and activity of early lactation Holstein dairy cattle measured using an activity monitor. Cattle Practice 14(2)


Bleach, E, Gould, M, Blackie, N, and Beever, D (2006) Growth performance of Holstein-Friesian heifer calves reared using three milk replacer feeding regimes. Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition 2005. Eds Garnsworthy, P.C. and Wiseman, J., Nottingham University Press. pp347-357

Conference Proceedings:

Faiers, I., Blackie, N., Reilly, B.R. and Gibson, T.J. Castration takes balls!  Do Lamb Tailing and Castration models build confidence in students prior to real life practice? VetEd conference, University of Nottingham. July 2022

Reilly, B.R. and Blackie, N. (2021). Cattle Art: not just a pretty picture. Veted Conference virtual meeting, University of Surrey, 7th - 9th July 2021.

Bouquet, A., Nicol, C., Blackie, N., Ferro de Godoy, R., Díez-León, M. (2021). Foal behaviour during artificial weaning is modulated by maternal behaviour experienced peri-natally. International Society for Equitation Science Virtual Conference. 

Bouquet, A, Nicol, C, Blackie, N, Ferro De Godoy, R. and Díez-León, M. (2021). Material influences on foal behavioral stress indicators during artificial weaning. Virtual UFAW Animal Welfare Conference, 29th - 30th June 2021

Bouquet, A, Nicol, C, Blackie, N, Ferro De Godoy, R. and Díez-León, M. (2021), ‘Does maternal foal-directed licking modulate behavioural stress responses during artificial weaning?’, ASAB Easter Virtual Meeting, University of Bristol, 14th-16th April 2021

Koziol, K, Blackie, N. and Barker, Z. (2018). The prevalence of pelvic asymmetry in lame and non-lame Holstein cows.  Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 206.

De Sousa, M. and Blackie, N. (2017) Do weaner pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) prefer olfactory enrichment? Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 40.

Glover, J., Amory, J.R., Lumbis, K and Blackie, N. (2016) Effects of single and double feeder space on the feed intake and growth performance of pigs post-weaning from four to eight weeks of age. Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 106.

Ivermee, D and Blackie, N. (2016) The effects of dietary brown seaweed (Ascophylum nodosum) supplementation on alleviating heat stress in farrowing Landrace x Large White sows. Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 112.

Bibby, E. and Blackie, N. (2014) The effect of supplementing piglet creep feed with Propyl Thiosulfinate (PTS) and Propyl Thiosulfinate Oxide (PTSO) on piglet and sow performance. Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 116.

Maclaurin, L. and Blackie, N. (2014) Influence of lameness on the lying behaviour of straw housed, zero-grazed lactating Jersey cattle. Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 214.

Ward A.C, Scaife, J. R, De Luna C. and Blackie N. (2014) Evaluating the interval from calving to first service, and calving to conception in high yielding lame and non-lame Holstein Friesian dairy cattle. Proceedings of British Society of Animal Science. 206.


Nicola primamrly teaches on the animal husbandry strand for Gateway, BVetMed and Accelerated programmes at pre clinical level. 

I have been involoved in a number of outreach activities such as open day farm tours, dairy day, visit from University of Minnesota as well as summer school activities, pre-vet summer school and Year 11 summer school.  Open Farm Sunday at Boltons Park Farm .  I am also a member of the AWRN outreach commitee.

  • Assessing and Improving Animal Welfare

    Genetics and management can greatly affect the welfare of farm, laboratory, companion and wild animals. We aim to improve animal welfare by understanding how human activities and management practices affect the welfare of animals that are kept, killed or otherwise impacted by humans. Comparative research can identify practices that generally elicit poor or good welfare outcomes, providing evidence that can be used to support initiatives to improve animal welfare. 

  • Development of welfare assessment protocols and technology

    Assessment of animal welfare is continually being improved using new insights in animal behaviour, non-invasive physiological methods, animal-environment interactions, and novel monitoring systems for animal responses and behaviours. 

    Some of our work aims to develop a more fundamental understanding of which measures (e.g. behaviour, activity, posture etc) should most appropriately be targeted with sensor technology. However, technology is not always feasible (or even desirable) in some sectors, so we develop welfare assessments that are valid and practical in whatever context they are needed and tailored to the specific welfare aim.

  • Fundamental understanding of welfare

    Animal welfare refers to animal feelings, health, and environmental suitability. These projects explore which animals are sentient and what feelings they have, and how behaviour, health, environments, and welfare interrelate. We use a wide range of techniques to investigate these fundamental questions, each of which is tailored to the particular hypothesis and species involved. Emotions are subjective (private) to the individual experiencing them, which makes them challenging to investigate scientifically. 

Top of page