Dr Nikki Kells staff profile picture

Contact details +6469518291

Dr Nikki Kells PhD, MSc, BSc

Senior Lecturer in Animal Welfare

Doctoral Co-Supervisor
School of Veterinary Science

Current research/professional interests

  • Evaluation of affective states in animals:
  • Neurophysiological, physiological and behavioural assessment of pain
  • Neurophysiological techniques to assess pain and breathlessness
  • Development of a paradigm to assess boredom-like states
  • Biomarkers for assessment of longer-term pain

Slaughter & humane killing:

  • Survey of current euthanasia practice for dogs and cats among NZ veterinarians
  • Refinement of clinical euthanasia protocols for domestic cats
  • Evaluation of a commercial device for electrical stunning of NZ crayfish & koura
  • Alternatives to carbon dioxide for gas stunning/killing

Dairy cattle welfare:

  • Risk factors for pre-slaughter mortality among bobby calves
  • Early identification of at-risk bobby calves
  • Development and evaluation of prolonged acting local anaesthetic formulation for calf disbudding
  • Development of a welfare assessment protocol for pasture-based dairy cows in NZ

Fish welfare:

  • Biomarkers for assessing cumulative stress in laboratory fish
  • Developing a framework for assessment of fish welfare in NZ aquaculture systems

I completed a PhD  in 2016 investigatingt acute and chronic pain associated with tail docking of piglets, along with strategies to mitigate this. I then completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship exploring bobby calf welfare across the NZ dairy supply chain, before being appointed Senior Lecturer in Animal Welfare in 2018.

 My research expertise/interests include:

  • Neurophysiological and physiological assessment of animal pain

  • Recognition of states of consciousness in animals
  • Evaluation of affective states (other than pain) in animals
  • Development/evaluation of humane methods for slaughter and killing of animals
  • Development of novel pain alleviation strategies in animals
  • Development of animal welfare assessment tools
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Professional

Contact details

  • Ph: 85291
    Location: 2.05, Collinson Village
    Campus: Manawatu

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy - Massey University (2017)
  • Master of Science First Class - Massey University (2013)
  • Bachelor of Science - Massey University (2010)

Certifications and Registrations

  • Licence, Co-Supervisor, Massey University

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Use of electroencephalography and behaviour to assess animal welfare

Welfare assessment of methods for stunning and killing animals

Assessment and mitigation of pain in animals undergoing routine husbandry procedures

Development of novel pain biomarkers

Developmental aspects of conscious awareness and pain perception

Welfare implications of respiratory compromise

Assessment and promotion of positive welfare

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Agricultural And Veterinary Sciences (070000):
Animal Behaviour (060801): Animal Physiology - Systems (060603):
Animal Production (070200):
Biological Sciences (060000):
Humane Animal Treatment (070207):
Physiology (060600): Zoology (060800)

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 3 0
Team Member 0 1

Research Outputs

Journal

Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Johnson, CB., Chambers, JP., O'Connor, C., Webster, J., . . . Cogger, N. (2020). Indicators of dehydration in healthy 4- to 5-day-old dairy calves deprived of feed and water for 24 hours. Journal of Dairy Science.
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Cogger, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N., Laven, R.
Sapkota, S., Laven, R., Müller, K., & Kells, N. (2020). Animal welfare assessment: Can we develop a practical, time-limited assessment protocol for pasture-based dairy cows in New Zealand?. Animals. 10(10), 1-20
[Journal article]Authored by: Kells, N., Laven, R.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., R Godfrey, AJ., E Littlewood, K., Ward, RN., & Johnson, CB. (2020). Effect of analgesic strategies on pain behaviour associated with combined ring castration and hot iron tail docking in Merino lambs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 222
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Godfrey, A., Johnson, C., Kells, N., Littlewood, K.
Boulton, AC., Kells, NJ., Cogger, N., Johnson, CB., O'Connor, C., Webster, J., . . . Beausoleil, NJ. (2020). Risk factors for bobby calf mortality across the New Zealand dairy supply chain. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 174
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Cogger, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Stanger, KJ., Kells, NJ., Fisher, AD., Jubb, T., Rault, JL., & Johnson, C. (2019). Evaluation of euthanasia of sheep with intravenous saturated salt solutions to enable the collection of whole, intact brains. Animal Welfare. 28(4), 397-406
[Journal article]Authored by: Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Sutherland, MA., & Johnson, CB. (2019). Post-natal development of EEG responses to noxious stimulation in pigs (Sus scrofa) aged 1-15 days. Animal Welfare. 28(3), 317-329
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Sutherland, MA., Dowling, SK., Schütz, KE., Cave, VM., Kells, NJ., Johnson, CB., . . . Stewart, M. (2019). Behavioral and physiological assessment of liquid nitrogen cryoablation to prevent horn development in dairy calves. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 31, 74-81
[Journal article]Authored by: Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., McIlhone, AE., & Johnson, CB. (2018). Electroencephalographic responses of anaesthetised rats to carbon dioxide inhalation. Animal Welfare. 27(3), 215-223
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Sutherland, MA., & Johnson, CB. (2018). Electroencephalographic responses of anaesthetised pigs to intraperitoneal injection of sodium pentobarbital. Animal Welfare. 27(3), 205-214
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
McIlhone, AE., Beausoleil, NJ., Kells, NJ., Johnson, CB., & Mellor, DJ. (2018). Effects of halothane on the electroencephalogram of the chicken. Veterinary Medicine and Science. 4(2), 98-105
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
McIlhone, AE., Beausoleil, NJ., Kells, NJ., Mellor, DJ., & Johnson, CB. (2018). Effects of noxious stimuli on the electroencephalogram of anaesthetised chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus). PLoS ONE. 13(4)
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, N., Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., & Sutherland, M. (2018). Evaluation of different gases and gas combinations for on-farm euthanasia of pre-weaned pigs. Animals. 8(3)
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Sutherland, MA., Morrison, RM., & Johnson, CB. (2017). Electroencephalographic assessment of oral meloxicam, topical anaesthetic cream and cautery iron for mitigating acute pain in pigs (Sus scrofa) undergoing tail docking. Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia. 44(5), 1166-1174
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Chambers, JP., Sutherland, MA., Morrison, RS., & Johnson, CB. (2017). Electroencephalographic responses of anaesthetized pigs (Sus scrofa) to tail docking using clippers or cautery iron performed at 2 or 20 days of age. Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia. 44(5), 1156-1165
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Chambers, J., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Johnson, CB., Sutherland, MA., Morrison, RS., & Roe, W. (2017). Comparison of neural histomorphology in tail tips from pigs docked using clippers or cautery iron. Animal. 11(7), 1222-1227
[Journal article]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N., Roe, W.
Rault, J-L., Kells, N., Johnson, C., Dennis, R., Sutherland, M., & Jr, LDC. (2015). Nitrous oxide as a humane method for piglet euthanasia: Behavior and electroencephalography (EEG). PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR. 151, 29-37
[Journal article]Authored by: Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Rault, JL., Kells, N., Johnson, C., Dennis, R., Sutherland, M., & Lay, DC. (2015). Nitrous oxide as a humane method for piglet euthanasia: Behavior and electroencephalography (EEG). Physiology and Behavior. 151, 29-37
[Journal article]Authored by: Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kongara, K., Johnson, L., Kells, N., Johnson, CB., Dukkipati, V., & Mitchinson, SL. (2014). Alteration of Electroencephalographic Responses to Castration in Cats by Administration of Opioids. GSTF International Journal of Veterinary Science.
[Journal article]Authored by: Johnson, C., Kells, N., Kongara, K.
Kongara, K., McIlhone, AE., Kells, NJ., & Johnson, CB. (2014). Electroencephalographic evaluation of decapitation of the anaesthetized rat. Laboratory Animals. 48(1), 15-19
[Journal article]Authored by: Johnson, C., Kells, N., Kongara, K.
Flint, S., & Hartley, N. (1996). A modified selective medium for the detection of Pseudomonas species that cause spoilage of milk and dairy products. International Dairy Journal. 6(2), 223-230
[Journal article]Authored by: Flint, S., Kells, N.
Flint, SH., & Kells, NJ. (1996). The sub-typing of Listeria monocytogenes isolates from food, environments surrounding food manufacturing sites, and clinical samples in New Zealand using multilocus enzyme electrophoresis. International Journal of Food Microbiology. 31(1-3), 349-355
[Journal article]Authored by: Flint, S., Kells, N.
Flint, SH., Hartley, NJ., Avery, SM., & Hudson, JA. (1996). A comparison between starch and polyacrylamide gels for the analysis of Listeria monocytogenes using multilocus enzyme electrophoresis. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 22(1), 16-17
[Journal article]Authored by: Flint, S., Kells, N.
Flint, SH., & Hartley, NJ. (1995). Evaluation of the TECRA Escherichia coli O157 visual immunoassay for tests on dairy products. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 21(2), 79-82
[Journal article]Authored by: Flint, S., Kells, N.
Flint, SH., & Hartley, NJ. (1994). Development of a selective medium for Acinetobacter. International Dairy Journal. 4(2), 183-188
[Journal article]Authored by: Flint, S., Kells, N.
Flint, SH., & Hartley, NJ. (1993). Evaluation of the TECRA immunocapture ELISA for the detection of Salmonella typhimurium in foods. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 17(1), 4-6
[Journal article]Authored by: Flint, S., Kells, N.

Conference

Kells, N., Todd, P., & Laven, L. (2020). The effect of space allowance on lying behaviour and carcass bruising in bobby calves during transport to a slaughter premises in New Zealand. In Proceedings of the 36th World Veterinary Association Congress Vol. 4 , 36th World Veterinary Association Congress New Zealand: New Zealand Veterinary Asociation
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Kells, N., Laven, L.
Kells, N., Beausoleil, N., Sutherland, M., & Johnson, C. (2017). Complementary use of behaviour, physiology and electroencephalography to assess the humaneness of three gas mixtures for on-farm killing of neonatal pigs. , Welfare Impacts of Controlled Atmosphere Methods for Stunning or Killing Animals
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, N., Beausoleil, N., McIlhone, A., & Johnson, C. (2017). Electroencephalographic responses of anaesthetised rats to carbon dioxide inhalation. , Welfare Impacts of Controlled Atmosphere Methods for Stunning or Killing Animals
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, N., Beausoleil, NJ., Chambers, JP., Sutherland, M., Morrison, R., & Johnson, CB. (2015). EEG assessment of acute pain and pain mitigation strategies in pigs undergoing tail docking. In Proceedings of the Advancing Pork Production Seminar Vol. 4 (pp. 36 - 40). , The Advancing Pork Production Seminar
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Chambers, J., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, N., Chambers, JP., Sutherland, M., Morrison, R., & Johnson, CB. (2015). Electroencephalographic responses of anaesthetised pigs to tail docking using clippers or cautery iron. , 12th World Congress of Veterinary Anaesthesia
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Chambers, J., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, N., Beausoleil, N., Chambers, P., Sutherland, M., Morrison, R., & Johnson, C. (2013). EEG assessment of acute pain in piglets during tail docking. In Proceedings of the Fourteenth Biennial Conference of the Australasian Pig Science Association (APSA)(pp. 129 - 129). , Manipulating Pig Production XIV Werribee, VIC, Australia: Australasian Pig Science Association
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Chambers, JP., Sutherland, MA., Morrison, RS., & Johnson, CB. (2013). Electroencephalographic assessment of acute pain in piglets during tail docking. In Proceedings of the 14th APSA Conference(pp. 129 - 129). , Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Conference of the APSA
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Chambers, J., Johnson, C., Kells, N.
Kells, NJ., Beausoleil, NJ., Johnson, CB., & Sutherland, MA. (2011). Assessment of the relative welfare impacts of three gas treatments for the euthanasia of suckling piglets. , Recent Advances in the Welfare of Livestock at Slaughter: Centenary International Symposium: Humane Slaughter Association
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Beausoleil, N., Johnson, C., Kells, N.

Teaching and Supervision

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Co-supervisor 3 0

Current Doctoral Supervision

Co-supervisor of:

  • Morgan Heslop - Doctor of Philosophy
    Development of behavioural methods for the identification of boredom in animals
  • Sophia Holdsworth - Doctor of Philosophy
    Exploring the mechanisms underlying the thoracic squeeze technique in neonatal mammals of precocial species, and its potential application in an industry setting
  • Sujan Sapkota - Doctor of Philosophy
    Assessment of Welfare of cattle in New Zealand and Nepal

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