School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

Image of Wendela Wapenaar

Wendela Wapenaar

Clinical Associate Professor in Cattle Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



Wendela is an enthusiastic veterinary educator and scientist with initiative and a positive attitude. Motivated and able to translate research findings into practical application on farm. Wendela enjoys working in the specialist field of veterinary education, is energized by team work and finds work pleasure in an evidence-based and result-driven work environment.

Wendela is a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP-Dairy Specialty), a Named Veterinary Surgeon and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She received her PhD in Veterinary Epidemiology from the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada in 2007.

Previous positions

Clinical Lecturer in Farm Animal Health and Epidemiology, Nottingham University. Development and delivery of clinical research and teaching relating to farm animal health and veterinary epidemiology throughout the 5-year veterinary course.

Farm Animal Veterinary Surgeon, Scarsdale Veterinary Group, Derby, UK

Ruminant Farm Service Resident, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Clinical work: servicing mainly dairy and beef clients and responsible for training final year veterinary students. Research work: Investigating the epidemiology of Neospora caninum in dairy cattle and wildlife on Prince Edward Island; focusing on field data collection and analysis, diagnostic test development and test performance.

Farm Animal Veterinarian (90% dairy), Animal Health Centre, Te Aroha, New Zealand. Mainly pasture based large scale dairy farms.

Locum veterinarian in mixed practice 'Philippen en Klein', Nuth, The Netherlands

DVM (Farm Animal track) Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Expertise Summary

  • Innovative veterinary education
  • Bovine infectious disease
  • Bovine reproduction & obstetrics

Teaching Summary

Wendela is responsible for the development and oversight of Farm Animal teaching during the 5-year course. Part of this responsibility is the assessment of final year students. Although Wendela… read more

Research Summary

Wendela focuses her research on the following 3 areas: bovine infectious disease and vaccination, bovine reproduction and obstetrics, knowledge transfer and farm animal education. She also… read more

Selected Publications

Wendela is responsible for the development and oversight of Farm Animal teaching during the 5-year course. Part of this responsibility is the assessment of final year students. Although Wendela contributes to teaching on the majority of modules throughout the 5-year course, her predominant teaching commitment is in year 4. She is responsible for the delivery of the Clinical Reproduction Module. Implementing digital learning in HE and exploring opportunities for the use of virtual reality in education are developing fields Wendela has a strong interest in.

Undergraduate teaching

Wendela is especially involved in practical teaching, using cattle and sheep on site or by using post mortem material, all aiming to provide students with as much hands-on experience as possible. She is interested and involved in the development of appropriate assessment techniques for knowledge-based and practical skills. Together with colleagues (Dr Lea and Ms Booth) Wendela has successfully established 'peer assisted learning' (PAL) in the reproduction module. Using teaching & learning techniques such as PAL in the veterinary curriculum helps students to develop their professional skills, which are invaluable for their future career.

During the 3rd year of the course Wendela is involved in 3-month research projects. This is a great opportunity for veterinary students to develop their interest in veterinary research, and many of Wendela's undergraduate students have published or presented their findings to their target audience (vets, farmers). Epidemiology, basic statistics and qualitative research techniques are commonly taught themes during one to one project supervision.

Post graduate teaching

Post graduate training is part of Wendela's teaching commitment. Aside from supervising PhD students, Wendela has successfully awarded the PhD degree (as internal or external examiner) to the following students:

  • Sarah Potteron (internal)
  • Aurelien Madouasse (internal)
  • Julie Jones-Diette (internal)
  • Poh Ying Lim (internal)
  • Marjolijn Derks (external)

Current Research

Wendela focuses her research on the following 3 areas: bovine infectious disease and vaccination, bovine reproduction and obstetrics, knowledge transfer and farm animal education. She also collaborates with other researchers to promote evidence based veterinary medicine. Further information or copies of reports, projects, or papers are available on request.

  • Bovine infectious diseases


In a UK study (Cresswell et al., 2014) we demonstrated where compliance with regards to cattle vaccination can be improved. Together with the UK dairy farmer levy board ( we are working in a research partnership to improve vaccination strategies on farm. The project title is: 'Infectious disease control in dairy cows: Provision of practical guidance on vaccination and biosecurity'. In this project 2 postgraduate students (Imogen Richens and Heather O'Connor) are using qualitative research techniques to identify attitudes, barriers and motivators of veterinary surgeons and farmers towards vaccination. Their studies, combined with an expert panel and consensus panel aim to provide feasible and practical guidance on vaccination and biosecurity by June 2016.

In addition to addressing the social science behind implementation and change management, we also provide practical solutions directly to farmers to help achieve better compliance. For example, in collaboration with many stakeholders and supported by DairyCo a video was produced to inform farmers on the best way to safely and effectively vaccinate cattle (


Although much excellent research has been performed, there are still unknown aspects of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of Neospora caninum. Finding evidence to answer some of the questions may help farmers manage their animals to prevent abortions and reduce the transmission of Neospora on their farm. In Wendela's publication list you can find the work she contributed to this field in her PhD research. She is interested in pursuing more research on Neospora caninum, as it is one of the most common causes of abortion in cattle in the UK.

Listeriosis and Leptospirosis

In collaboration with a microbiologist (Dr Totemeyer) we are aiming to better understand the pathogenesis of Listeria and Leptospira infection in cattle. These zoonotic pathogens can cause abortion, but Listeria monocytogenes can also cause 'silage eye' and Leptospira spp. can cause a significant drop in milk production. Different types/strains of these bacteria may lead to the different clinical presentations observed. Experiments using slaughter house material will help us better understand infection pathways. Knowing more about the pathogenesis will enable veterinary surgeons to better prevent and control these diseases in cattle.

  • Bovine reproduction & obstetrics


Fertility is one of the most important drivers in the cattle industry and therefore reducing abortions in beef and dairy cattle is important. Abortion investigations in cattle are challenging; many (non-)infectious causes exist, the sample material to get to a diagnosis is not always present, and finding a pathogen does not necessarily mean we have found the cause of abortion.

In an undergraduate project we investigated the characteristics of abortion submissions to the AHVLA laboratories between 2006 and 2011. The chance of diagnosing the cause of abortion increased considerably when all required samples (placenta, blood, and fetus) were submitted. Further details can be found in Kine Elmenhorst's dissertation, which is available on request.

Although there is a statutory requirement in the UK to report every abortion event in cattle, many abortions do not get reported or investigated. We surveyed farmers and vets in the UK and Ireland to understand why investigations are (not) initiated. The results of this study provide policy makers and veterinary surgeons with information that can help improve abortion investigations on farm.

Uterine prolapse

Bovine obstetrics is part of daily cattle practice. There is however limited evidence-based research describing the best treatment/method to manage various common obstetrical situations, such as dystocia, caesareans, uterine prolapse and uterine torsions. Performing experimental research or a randomised clinical trial are improbable methods to investigate the best approach for these cases, due to study design complications and financial challenges. However, there is a wealth of experience in the field and collecting knowledge from experienced veterinary surgeons, using robust methods can help to provide recommendations on the best techniques/methods to use, based on the experience of a worldwide audience. Research Strategy Funding from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science enabled a study using the Delphi method and consensus approach among expert veterinary surgeons to provide a best practice guideline for the treatment of a prolapsed uterus in cattle. The research has been presented to veterinary surgeons at several conferences (for example during the RCVS knowledge conference in 2012,, and the guideline is included in current teaching.

Nutritional impact on fetal development and heifer productivity

Together with Dr Perry, a reproductive biologist, we investigate the effect of nutrition (% protein) before and/or during pregnancy upon heifer productivity within the beef herd. By measuring blood hormone levels, uterine blood flow, uterine artery diameter and fetal size we monitored the development of pregnancy. The heifers calves are followed to investigate their future fertility performance, as research indicates that nutrition of the dam during pregnancy may affect the future fertility of their calf. This research is funded by EBLEX and the Australian Research Council.

  • Knowledge transfer & farm animal education

Wendela has supervised postgraduate students investigating implementation of digital learning into the curriculum using Open Labyrinth and other online open source software. Within the field of veterinary education she has supervised research investigating a novel national assessment strategy for all UK students in the final year of their course.

With a background in research and clinical practice, Wendela is aware of existing knowledge present in research and the challenges and opportunities for implementing this knowledge in veterinary practice or on farm. To do this effectively we need a better understanding of the people delivering and receiving this knowledge. A multidisciplinary approach combining health psychology, social and veterinary science is an important tool to help bridge the gap between science and practice. With Flexible Research Funding from the University of Nottingham and together with a veterinary epidemiologist (Dr Brennan) focus groups were held to investigate the motivators and barriers with regards to the uptake of deworming practices and bioscecurity measures by cattle farmers. Similar qualitative research methods are employed in the vaccination and abortion research described above.

A combined approach using qualitative research techniques (interviews, focus groups, thematic analysis) and quantitative methods (surveys, cross sectional studies) are an integral part of Wendela's research.

In addition to developing her own research, Wendela uses her clinical expertise, her qualification as Named Veterinary Surgeon and Home Office Personal Licence Holder (Module 1-4) to support other researchers with the development and execution of their projects. Carrying out pregnancy detection and performing ultrasound measurements are an example of this support in the nutritional impact on fetal development study (described above). Wendela enjoys working in a collaborative environment, and her goal of research is to make a difference to cattle health, welfare and production.

Past Research

Postgraduate research

Perceived barriers and motivators of UK academics towards a national examination in farm animal medicine (Fay Pooley)

Heifer mastitis in Irish dairy herds (Simon Archer)

Understanding veterinary surgeons' beliefs to improve the health and welfare of farmed animals: A Bayesian investigation (Helen Higgins)

A selection of undergraduate research

An investigation demonstrating UK dairy farmers' attitudes, motivators and barriers regarding vaccination strategies (Rachel Lowton)

A survey-based investigation into the uptake and use of cattle vaccines in the UK (Liz Cresswell)

Veterinary surgeons' perception of cattle abortion and the barriers and motivators to abortion investigation uptake (Emily Windham)

Farmer perception of cattle abortion and the barriers and motivators to abortion investigation uptake (Eva Kenny)

Neospora caninum and bovine abortion in the UK from 2007-2011: Evaluation of surveillance (Kine Elmenhorst)

A Delphi consensus approach among expert veterinary surgeons investigating the treatment of prolapsed uteri in cattle (Jane Lowess)

Veterinary opinion and evidence based medicine regarding the best management practice for a bovine uterine prolapse (Hannah Griffiths)

Opinions of veterinarians and dairy farmers towards herd health planning in the UK (Jennifer Hall)

International experience

Previous research experience in Mozambique, investigating Cowdria ruminantium in goats, provided the skills to deal with the challenges of performing field work in developing countries.

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 6116
fax: +44 (0)115 951 6415