The John Oldacre Foundation PhD Studentship: Towards Sustainable Livestock Systems

About the award

In recent years, food security has returned to the UK and global policy agenda.  Global projections of increased population and greater demand for food sit alongside the challenges of climate change and declining production in some parts of the world.  In such a context of public and policy concern, livestock production has become a focus of intense scrutiny.

There are those who argue that meat consumption should be drastically cut or eliminated altogether because it is an inefficient way of feeding people, requiring disproportionate amounts of land and other inputs.  This critique of meat and livestock farming is reinforced by concerns over the health implications of meat in the human diet, the waste streams associated with meat production, and the role of methane as a greenhouse gas.

Counter arguments have been put forwards suggesting that livestock production has a role because of the many grassland areas of the word are not suited to cultivation, and grazed systems may also help to lock up carbon and maintain biodiversity.  Animals, it is argued, may also play a role in the consumption of crop residues and in rotational agriculture that is less dependent on artificial fertilizers.

What both sides of the argument are in agreement on is that the use of large areas of arable land to produce soya or cereals for animal consumption, often far from the point of arable production, is not a particularly sustainable system.  Global per capita meat consumption has been increasing; it would be a foolish to expect meat consumption to decline dramatically or rapidly, but in some parts of the works, including the UK, there has been a modest decline, particularly in red meat consumption.  The research would seek to answer the following questions:

What would a more sustainable UK livestock system look like?
What are the factors, both agricultural and economic, that might encourage or inhibit a shift towards more sustainable livestock agriculture?

The PhD candidate will explore these questions and will examine the characteristics of farm management systems which are better suited to sustainability than some existing systems.  The PhD will primarily b about management systems and farmer views, but the candidate will also need to have an understanding of agricultural science, technology and husbandry.  We anticipate for this particular PhD that the elicitation of expert judgments will be a key element of the research. In other works, the student will analyse the views of difference experts on the nature and characteristics of sustainable systems. 

The student will be supervised by Professors Michael Winter and Matt Lobley (University of Exeter) and Professor Michael Lee (Rothamsted Research).


Application deadline:18th April 2017
Number of awards:1
Value:3 years tuition fees UK/EU and an annual maintenance allowance at research council rates (£14,553 in 2017/18)
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Beth Owen / Issac Maswade. Telephone: 01392

How to apply

Entry Criteria

• This award is available to those students with Home / EU residency status

• MSc, MA or Mres or equivalent post-graduate qualification and knowledge of appropriate social science research methods

• This project entails national travel with extended periods of fieldwork

• This project entails extensive travel to remote, rural farm locations so a driving licence is essential

How to Apply

In order to apply you will need to complete an online web form where you must submit some personal details and upload the following documents by 11.59pm on the 18 April 2017.

• A detailed CV

• Covering letter - outlining your academic interests, any prior research experience and reasons for wishing to do PhD in the context of the research interests of the Centre.

• A statement outlining (maximum 1500-2000 words, excluding bibliography) what you see as the particular opportunities and challenges of this PhD research project. Please note that you are expected to illustrate your knowledge and understanding of the issues and/or the research process and explain why you are suitable, given your skills and disciplinary background, to achieve this research project within three years. Please upload in the research proposal section in one document together with your research paper (it is not possible to upload separate documents).

• Transcript of your highest qualification to date or an interim transcript if you are still studying

IELTS/TOEFL certificate - where applicable

• 2 references to be sent direct to

Please note that if you are successful in being awarded funding you will then be asked to apply for a study place in addition to formalise the funding offer.

Selection Process: Short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview in person (in Exeter at the University’s Streatham Campus) or by Skype. The interviews will be scheduled on 25th April 2017.

For informal enquiries and further information on the project please contact

Emma Tranter
01392 722438