Starter Grant for clinical lecturers awardee

University of Liverpool

Using genomics to prevent lameness-causing foot lesions in dairy cattle

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers scheme we are pleased to feature case studies of past and present Starter Grant awardees. Dr George Oikonomou was awarded a Starter Grant for Clinical Lecturers in 2016. Here he explains how the award has helped him to generate preliminary data to support further funding applications. He also highlights some of the main achievements of his research career so far.


Can you give us an overview of your research?

I am a Cattle Health Specialist and Senior Lecturer in Livestock Health and Welfare. During my PhD, I investigated the genetics of energy balance and reproduction in Holstein cows. As a Research Associate at Cornell University, I became involved in research projects on dairy cattle lameness, mastitis, and reproductive diseases and was also introduced to the fascinating world of microbiomics. I was a co-investigator in a USDA-funded grant that aimed to study the dynamics of the mammary microbiota during and after intra-mammary infection. I am currently studying dairy cattle lameness using 'omics' approaches.

What has the impact of your Starter Grant been so far?

The proposed project aims to explore the possibility of identifying cattle genes associated with their susceptibility to lameness-causing foot lesions. This study could improve our understanding of lameness-causing lesions while genomic selection of cows for resistance to lameness may be feasible and contribute to the reduction of lesion prevalence. We followed

more than 500 animals and recorded any lameness causing lesions in detail. These animals have already been genotyped and we are now performing genome wide association analyses. Preliminary results are promising and suggest the existence of significant genetic variation in all the studied traits.

Why did you apply for a Starter Grant and what appealed to you about the scheme?

The Starter Grant represented an excellent opportunity for me to generate good quality preliminary data and support a larger grant application which has worked really well.

What’s next for you and your research?

My institute has recently recognised the potential of my research career and reduced my teaching time to give me more research time. In collaboration with the Scottish Rural College and the Royal Veterinary College, and funded by BBSRC, I will be conducting a large scale study on the aetiopathogenesis and the genomic architecture of lameness-causing foot lesions.


Research highlights

  • Successful BBSRC Responsive Mode grant application in 2018
  • Promotion to Senior Lecturer in 2018
  • Two presentations at international conferences

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