Department: Pathobiology and 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 two PhD students, one is looking at calf housing and the other looking at material behaviour in mares.

Journal Papers:

Owen, K.; Blackie, N.; Gibson, T.J. (2022). The Effect of Needle Reuse on Piglet Skin Puncture Force. Veterinary Sciences. 9, 90. https://doi.org/10.3390/vetsci9020090 

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. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2021-20638

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041120

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030612

Collins, E.B.; Blackie, N. (2021). The Impacts of Waterproof Insulated Jackets on Lamb Performance on a UK Lowland Farm. Animals, 11, 217. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010217

Blackie, N. (2019). In newborn piglets does drying versus no intervention reduce the risk of mortality pre-weaning?. Veterinary Evidence, 4(4). https://doi.org/10.18849/ve.v4i4.245

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100829

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9040148

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)

Books:

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.

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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 

  • 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. 


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