Prof Alastair Macrae

Personal Chair of Farm Animal Health and Production



The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute
Easter Bush Campus

Post code
EH25 9RG


  • Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes


I am a Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Health and Production, and Head of the Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service (DHHPS) at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I am also Director of Farm Animal Veterinary Services, with overall daily management responsibility for the Farm Animal Practice as well as the DHHPS. I am Head of the Farm Animal section at the RDSVS

The DHHPS was started at the University in 1977 in conjunction with Dalgety Animal Feeds, and continues to provide independant consultancy advice to dairy, beef and sheep farms on all aspects of health and productivity with the aim of preventing disease and maximising farm profitability. The DHHPS undertakes metabolic profile blood testing on approximately 9,000 dairy cows each year, and also provides a herd health recording service monitoring trends in culling and disease in UK dairy herds.

I am also involved in teaching undergraduate veterinary students in all years of the BVM&S course at Edinburgh, as well as agriculture students at SRUC. My main research interests include cattle and sheep nutrition and its effects on productivity and disease, as well as the welfare of the dairy cow and her calf around calving. I hold further veterinary postgraduate qualifications including the RCVS Certificate in Sheep Health and Production, and RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production.

Area of Expertise

Research expertise - Dairy and Beef Cattle, Sheet, Nutrition, Disease

Clinical Expertise and Specialisation

I hold the RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, and RCVS Certificate in Sheep Health and Production. My main clinical areas of focus include ruminant nutrition, disease prevention and control, and the economic costs of disease on dairy, beef and sheep farms.


Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

April 2016 Diplomate of the European College of Small Ruminant Health Management (Non-practising)

July 2015 Diplomate of the European College of Bovine Health Management

July 2012 Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, RCVS

Sept 2006 Certificate in Cattle Health and Production, RCVS

July 2002 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in molecular virology from the University of Edinburgh.

Sept 1998 Certificate in Sheep Health and Production, RCVS

July 1995 Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (with distinction) from the University of Edinburgh

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh Pathogenesis of gammaherpesvirus infection Bachelors in Veterinary Medicine & Surgery, University of Edinburgh

Professional Qualifications

Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, DCHP Certificate in Cattle Health and Production, CertCHP Certificate in Sheep Health and Production, CertSHP2016Diplomate of the European College of Small Ruminant Health Management, DipECSRHM (Non-practising)2015Diplomate of the European College of Bovine Health Management, DipECBHM


Responsibilities & affiliations

Farm Animal Practice / DHHPS, UG teaching staff,  PG teaching admin, Student support

Production Animal

Farm Animal Practice/DHHPS, Farm Animal Hospital


UG Teaching Staff, Admissions, Pre-Clinical Teaching, Farm Animal Teaching

Other Administrative Roles

• Head of Farm Animal Section

• Director of Farm Animal Veterinary Services

• Course Organiser for ICC Farm Animal Course in 4th year BVM&S

• Personal Tutor for BVM&S undergraduate students

One day teaching on clinical dairy cow nutrition and metabolic profiles to Royal Veterinary College elective students in Final Year (2008 - 2015).

• Exam Board Chair for PGT Course MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare

• External Examiner for BVMSI and II Animal Husbandry Course at Glasgow University Veterinary School (2009 - 2014)

• External Examiner for Final Year at University of Nottingham (2015 - present)

• Teach on SRUC Year 3 Agriculture Course on "Advanced Livestock Management Issues"

Postgraduate teaching

I have taught on a large number of veterinary Continuing Professional Development courses, including:

• Modular Course in preparation for the Certificate in Sheep Health and Production. 2003/04, 2005/06, 2006/07. 3 or 5 modules, each consisting of 2 days. University of Edinburgh.

• MRCVS examination – preparation course. April 2004, 2005, 2006. University of Edinburgh

• Veterinary Role in Nutrition and Fertility Management in Dairy Cows. 2004, 2005, 2006. University of Edinburgh.

• Improve CPD Course. 2007, 2009. Dairy Cow Nutrition.

• BCVA Advanced Practitioner Beef & Bull Course 2014, Youngstock Course 2014

• Harper Adams University PGT Course on Ruminant Nutrition (2015 - 2017)

Principal supervision of Resident in Farm Animal Health and Production (Cattle), and co-supervision of Resident in Farm Animal Health and Production (Sheep)

Involved in numerous talks/lectures for farmers and nutritional advisors on topics including dairy cow and sheep nutrition, mastitis control, herd health, lameness control and sheep management. Recipient of grant through Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service of £10,000 from Barham Benevolent Foundation

I am involved in the following committees at the RDSVS, University of Edinburgh:

  • Admissions Committee
  • Clinical Skills Committee
  • Farm Teaching Group
  • Clinical Training Scholarship Committee

I am currently the Honorary Treasurer of the RDVC RFC and a Trustee of the James Grant Speed Trust.

Postgraduate teaching


The Animal Body; Animal Health, Welfare & Food Safety; Professional & Clinical Skills GEP

Year 1

Animal Health, Welfare & Food Safety 1

Year 2

Animal Health, Welfare & Food Safety 2; Professional & Clinical Skills 2

Year 4

Farm Animal; Veterinary Public Health

Year 5

Final Year Rotations; Student Selected Component 2

Research summary

Monitoring of farm animal health including the links between nutrition, health and productivity in cattle and sheep.

Current research interests

Production diseases in cattle and sheep, and links with nutrition. Although the majority of attention for livestock disease research in the UK is focused on Notifiable Diseases such as Tuberculosis, Foot and Mouth Disease and Bluetongue, the majority of the economic losses on most farms occur due to production diseases (or diseases of intensive livestock production). Examples of such production diseases would be mastitis, lameness, reduced fertility and hypocalcaemia in dairy cattle; perinatal mortality in beef calves and lambs. Although such diseases have a multifactorial aetiology, many are highly linked with nutritional management: for example there are well established links between negative energy balance (NEB) and increased disease risk and reduced fertility in dairy cattle. My research seeks to establish the nature of these links, and define the mechanisms by which they operate. For example, previous work in both Canada and the DHHPS has shown that high Non Esterified Fatty Acid levels in late pregnancy lead to an increased risk of the development of Left Displaced Abomasum in dairy cattle; by understanding how energy balance can influence such disease occurrence, we can devise strategies to try and reduce these diseases occurring. Epidemiology of production diseases in cattle and sheep. The Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service currently operates the largest database of culling and disease rates in dairy cows in the UK via a simple system of farm recording. Whilst this information is primarily used to feed information back to farmers and their veterinary surgeons, it also represents the best representation on the main conditions affecting dairy cattle in the UK at the herd level. My research aims to examine the main association and risk factors for these disease conditions; for example, does increasing herd size result in higher disease levels? Analysis of data on individual farms will focus on more specific conditions, such as risk factors for cystic ovarian disease in dairy cattle. Monitoring and management of diseases in cattle and sheep, including economic costs and benefits of disease control. With the numbers of animals per unit of labour increasing on many UK farms, more remote methods are required to monitor cow health and productivity at the farm level. In particular, economic losses due to subclinical disease mean that productivity is lost even before the clinical disease has become apparent. The early detection and precise identification of subclinical disease enables these losses to be minimised, if intervention can be efficiently targeted. By working with industry partners, this has sought to develop technologies for monitoring, as well as the early detection and diagnosis of disease in dairy cattle. Examples include prediction of calving using automated sensor technologies, and monitoring rumen pH using rumen boluses. I am also involved in the Paraban and Paraban Reloaded projects, which are collaborative projects with SRUC, University of Glasgow and James Hutton Institute funded by the Scottish Funding Council and QMS, in partnership with Scottish Government. This project is primarily based on Knowledge Exchange of information on paratuberculosis (Johnes disease) control in Scottish dairy and beef herds. Research Groups SRUC Animal Behaviour & Welfare Group (Dr Marie Haskell and Dr Kenny Rutherford) SRUC Dairy Research Centre at Crichton Royal (Dr David Roberts and Dr Mizeck Chagunda) SRUC Epidemiology Research Group (Prof George Gunn) Moredun Research Institute (Dr Francesca Chianini and Dr Frank Katzer) University of Glasgow Veterinary School (Prof David Eckersall) Research students PhD Principal supervisor Hanna Miedema, PhD entitled “The development of a system for the prediction of parturition in dairy cows”. 2006 – 2009. PhD awarded. Virgilio Ambriz-Vilchis, PhD entitled "The impact of dietary manipulation of pH flux on herd health and productivity". 2011 - 2016. PhD awarded. Tanja Lepore, PhD entitled "Specific diagnostic tests for protozoal infections of ruminants". BBSRC iCASE studentship with Zoetis. Moredun Research Institute. 2014 - present Rosie Barraclough, PhD entitled “Use of advanced technologies to enhance monitoring of dairy cow health”. BBSRC EastBio DTP CASE studentship, awarded with Icerobotics. 2016 - present PhD Co-supervisor Alice Barrier, PhD (in conjunction with SAC/SRUC; Dr Marie Haskell) "Effect of a difficult calving on the subsequent health and welfare of the dairy cow and calf". 2008 - 2012. PhD awarded Mayumi Fujiwara, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Kenny Rutherford) "Impacts of stress and nutrition during the dry period on dairy calf health, welfare and production" 2014 - present Lorna Paton, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Cath Milne) “Understanding antibiotic usage on farms – improving usage and reducing the speed of antibiotic resistance”. Part-time SRUC staff. 2015 – present. Rhea Kyriazopoulou, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Prof Richard Dewhurst) “Stress effects on the ovine rumen microbiome”. 2015 – present. Miguel Somarriba Soley, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Simon Turner) “Effects of stress on the ruminal microbial environment and its relationship to feed efficiency and methane emissions”. 2016 – present. David Bell, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Dr Marie Haskell) “Respiratory disease in calves: ventilation, thermal comfort and disease transmission”. 2016 – present. Riccardo Bica, PhD (in conjunction with SRUC; Prof Richard Dewhurst) “Short-term measurements and proxies for ruminant methane emissions”. 2016 – present. MSc by Research Daniel Chumia, MSc by Research (in conjunction with SAC/SRUC).”Factors influencing culling in 1st lactation dairy heifers”. 2010-2011. MSc awarded David Bell, MSc by Research (in conjunction with SAC/SRUC). "Influences of Loafing Area Use by Continuously Housed Dairy Cows" Part time. 2011-13. MSc awarded My research in a nutshell My research work is focused on the common diseases in cattle and sheep which farmers encounter on a daily basis all over the world. These include mastitis, lameness and infertility in dairy cows, as well as young calf and lamb losses early in life. Nutrition in both late pregnancy and during milk production can have major influences on the susceptability of animals to disease, especially in high yielding dairy cows who require vast amounts of energy in particular to meet the nutritional demands of milk production. If these energy demands are not met, the cows mobilise body reserves to meet any shortfall, and this situation can have harmful effects on milk production, cow health and long-term fertility. My research looks at monitoring these nutritional issues, in order to try and prevent disease occuring, as well as reduce the economic losses that occur as a result of subclinical disease. To hear me talking more about my work, visit the following link:

View all 72 publications on Research Explorer