Professor Cathy Dwyer

Scotland's Rural College

Research Interests

I have a long-standing research interest in maternal behaviour, mother-offspring interactions and offspring development, which has involved research in a variety of large and small animal models (sheep, pigs, horses, cattle, mice and guinea pigs).

This research has been focused on applied questions: initially looking at the impact of maternal undernutrition in pregnancy on muscle development during my PhD, and more recently concentrating on impacts of environmental and genetic factors in neonatal survival and development.

Current research areas include the impact of early life events on behavioural development and stress responsiveness in sheep, the potential to select animals for improved lamb vigour and survival, and the consequences of a difficult birth for subsequent health and welfare in cattle and sheep.

Alongside the more applied aspects of this area I have also investigated more strategic questions: the role of physiological and neuroendocrine factors in mediating individual differences in maternal behaviour; the impact of variation in maternal care on offspring behavioural development and the physiology of foetal and neonatal development.

An emerging research area is the welfare of extensively managed animals, which has been relatively neglected in comparison to intensively managed animals. This has focused mainly on sheep, and the ability to identify welfare problems and understand the welfare needs of this species. Current research in this area includes a collaborative project (funded by EU and Scottish Government) to develop methods and protocols to assess on farm welfare in sheep, and a project to investigate ways to reduce pain during husbandry procedures.

Selected Publications

  • Dwyer, C.M. Maternal behaviour and lamb survival: From neuroendocrinology to practical application. Animal (in press)
  • Barrier, A.C., Mason, C., Dwyer, C.M., Haskell, M.J. & Macrae, A.I. Stillbirth in dairy calves is influenced independently by dystocia and body shape. The Veterinary Journal (in press)
  • Barrier, A.C., Dwyer, C.M., Macrae, A.I. & Haskell, M.J. (2012) Survival, growth to weaning and subsequent fertility of liveborn dairy heifers after a difficult birth. Journal of Dairy Science 95: 6750-6754
  • Barrier, A.C., Haskell, M.J., Birch, S., Bagnall, A., Bell, D., Dickinson, J., Macrae, A.I. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012) The impact of dystocia on dairy calf health, welfare, performance and survival. The Veterinary Journal 195: 86-90
  • Barrier, A.C., Haskell, M.J., Macrae, A.I. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012) Parturition progress and behaviour in dairy cows with calving difficulty. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 139: 209-217
  • Matheson, S.M., Bünger, L. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012) Genetic parameters for fitness and neonatal behavior traits in sheep. Behavior Genetics 42: 899-911
  • Barrier, A.C., Ruelle, E., Haskell, M.H. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012) Effect of a difficult calving on the vigour of the calf, the onset of maternal behaviour, and some behavioural indicators of pain in the dam. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 103: 248-256
  • Dwyer, C.M. & Bünger, L. (2012) Factors affecting dystocia and offspring vigour in different sheep genotypes. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 103: 257-264
  • Molony, V., Kent, J., Vinuela-Fernandez, I., Anderson, C. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012) Pain in lambs castrated at two days with novel smaller and tighter rubber rings compared with conventional rubber rings and after local anaesthetic treatment. The Veterinary Journal 193: 81-86 
  • Stott, A.W., Vosough Ahmadi, B., Dwyer, C.M., Kupiec, B., Morgan-Davies, C., Milne, C.E., Ringrose, S., Goddard, P., Phillips, K. & Waterhouse, A. (2012) Interactions between profit and welfare on extensive sheep farms. Animal Welfare 21(S1): 57-64
  • Miedema, H.M., Cockram, M.S., Dwyer, C.M. & MacRae, A.I. (2011) Behavioural predictors of the start of normal and dystocic calving in dairy cows and heifers. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 132: 14-19 
  • Ashworth, C.J., Dwyer, C.M., McIlvaney, K., Werkman, M.  & Rooke, J.A. (2011) Breed differences in foetal and placental development and feto-maternal amino acid status following nutrient restriction during early and mid pregnancy in Scottish Blackface and Suffolk sheep. Reproduction, Fertility & Development 23: 1024-1033
  • Hild, S., Clark, C.C.A., Dwyer, C.M., Murrell, J.C., Mendl, M. & Zanella, A.J. (2011) Ewes are more attentive to their offspring experiencing pain but not stress. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 132: 114-120
  • Dwyer, C.M., Moinard, C., McIlvaney, K.M., Morgan, C.A. & Bunger, L. (2011) The effect of gestational undernutrition on maternal weight change and foetal weight in lines of mice selected for different growth characteristics. British Journal of Nutrition 105: 539-548 
  • Pickup, H.E. & Dwyer, C.M. (2011) Breed differences in the expression of maternal care at parturition persist throughout the lactation period in sheep. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 132: 33-41 
  • Matheson, S.M., Rooke, J.A., McIlvaney, K.M., Ison, S., Jack, M., Bunger, L., Ashworth, C.J. & Dwyer, C.M. (2011) Development and validation of ‘on-farm’ behavioural scoring systems to assess birth assistance and lamb vigour. Animal 5: 776-783 
  • MacFarlane, J.M., Matheson, S.M. & Dwyer, C.M. (2010) Genetic parameters for birth difficulty, lamb vigour and lamb sucking ability in Suffolk sheep. Animal Welfare 19 99-105 
  • Rooke, J.A., Houdijk, J.G.M., McIlvaney, K.M., Ashworth, C.J. & Dwyer, C.M. (2010) Differential effects of maternal nutrient restriction between days one and ninety of pregnancy on ewe and lamb performance and lamb parasitism of ewes in hill and lowland breeds. Journal of Animal Science 88: 3833-3842 
  • Rooke, J.A., Matheson, S., Ison, S., Jack, M., Ashworth, C.J. & Dwyer, C.M. (2009) The effect on lamb vigour of adding supplementary vitamin E to ewe diets in late pregnancy. Animal 3: 1555-1561 
  • Dwyer, C.M. (2009) Welfare of Sheep: Providing for welfare in an extensive environment. Small Ruminant Research 86: 14-21