Professor Malcolm Mitchell

Scotland's Rural College

Research Interests

My background is in human and animal physiology and I have sought to apply this discipline to understanding "stress" in animals particularly livestock in a commercial agricultural setting and how this relates to their welfare status.

My focus, for many years, has been upon environmental stress with specific emphasis upon thermal stress during animal transportation and in commercial production environments. I and my colleagues have developed a wide range of approaches and techniques for the characterisation of physiological stress responses in a number of species, including pigs, sheep, cattle and poultry.

A major strength of the approach is the incorporation of quantitative indices of physiological stress into predictive, integrative models that allow definition of acceptable ranges and limits for common stressors experienced by animals in everyday production environments and during transportation.

This approach, in turn, facilitates the development of improved commercial practices and procedures, better codes of practice, informed and relevant animal welfare legislation and contributes to advances in the design and operation of animal facilities, transport containers and vehicles.

I advise Defra and the industry on welfare issues relating to animal transport and production environments and serve on EFSA committees addressing animal transport legislation. The scientific approaches that my group employ, of necessity, require multi-disciplinary inputs and I work extensively with collaborators in the UK, other European countries, Canada, USA and South Africa.

Thus we currently integrate the outputs from physiological, behavioural, environmental and physical sciences studies to produce a holistic view of the effects of stressors upon animals. The modelling of stress responses has been extended to include the influence of production stressors upon other physiological systems in livestock including skeletal muscle and how this relates to meat quality and welfare in slaughter animals and to the effects of environmental challenges upon intestinal absorption of nutrients.

Current work is chiefly related to the long distance transport of pigs within Europe and the effects of hot weather conditions on animal welfare in transit.

Selected Publications

  • Mitchell, M.A. & Lemme, A. (2008)  Examination of the composition of the luminal fluid in the small intestine of broilers and absorption of amino acids under various ambient temperatures measured in vivo. International Journal of Poultry Science 7 (3): 223-233 Full Text
  • Mitchell, M.A. & Kettlewell, P.J.(2008) Engineering and design of vehicles for long distance road transport of livestock (ruminants, pigs and poultry).  Veterinaria Italiana, 44 (1), 197‐209 Full Text
  • Mitchell, M.A. & Moretó, M. (2007) Absorptive Function of the Small Intestine - Adaptations Meeting Demand.  In, Avian Gut Function in Health and Disease. Poultry Science Symposium Series, Volume 28. Edited by G.C. Perry, CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, UK, pp 43-64. Full Text
  • V. E. MacRae, V.E.,  Mahon, M., Gilpin, S.,  Sandercock, D.A.,  Hunter, R.R., & Mitchell, M.A.  (2007) A Comparison of Breast Muscle Characteristics in Three Broiler Great-Grandparent Lines. Poultry Science  86: 382-385 Full Text
  • Macrae,V.E.,  Mahon, M., Gilpin, S., Sandercock, D.A., &  Mitchell, M.A. (2006) Skeletal muscle fibre growth and growth associated myopathy in the domestic chicken ( Gallus domesticus ).  British Poultry Science, 47 (3): 264-272. Full Text
  • Sandercock, D.A., Hunter, R.R.,  Mitchell, M.A. &  Hocking, P.M.(2006) Thermoregulatory capacity and muscle membrane integrity are compromised in broilers compared with layers at the same age or body weight.  British Poultry Science, 47 (3): 322-329. Full Text
  • Garriga, C. Hunter, R.R., Amat, C. Planas, J,M., Mitchell, M.A. & Moreto, M. (2006) Heat stress increases apical glucose transport in the chicken jejunum American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 290 (1): R195-R201. Full Text
  • Mitchell, M.A. (2006) Using physiological models to define environmental control strategies.  In Mechanistic Modelling in Pig and Poultry Production, Eds. R.M. Gous, T.R. Morris, C. Fisher, CABI International, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK, pp 209-228.