PhD position: the implications of cow-calf rearing for dairy calf health and welfare

Wageningen University & Research
May 19 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Rearing conditions of dairy calves not only crucially affect health and welfare of the young animal, but may also influence biological functioning in later life as a cow. Under natural conditions, the dam provides important resources to the calf, including, for example, proper nutrition and social support. In modern dairy farming, calves are usually separated from their mother within 24 hours after birth. In this situation it is of utmost importance that the human caretaker adequately responds to the various needs of the calf throughout the rearing period. The current project aims to more fundamentally understand the implications, both positive and negative, of cow-calf rearing for the health and welfare of dairy calves. The project will try to identify which cow-related factors (e.g. with respect to behaviour or microbiology) are most relevant for health and welfare of calves, and will examine strategies to mimic these factors in dairy husbandry. Central in this project are on-farm experiments comparing different rearing conditions involving variable levels and durations of maternal contact, including no contact following separation from the dam within 24 hours after birth, and full-time contact with the dam. The impact of these rearing treatments will be examined in terms of behavioural, physiological, immunological, and microbiological response parameters in growing calves until (early) adulthood. Calves are longitudinally followed-up from an early age until the beginning of first lactation (females), or until the end of the fattening period on a veal farm (predominantly male calves). The knowledge obtained in this project will help to improve and innovate dairy calf rearing practices. We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a Master's degree in Animal Sciences, Biology, Veterinary Science or a comparable scientific field. The candidate should have a multidisciplinary interest in physiology, ethology, immunology, and animal welfare, and demonstrated skills to conduct research. We expect the candidate to be interested in both the fundamental and applied aspects of the project, and to be able to effectively collaborate with co-workers from the dairy industry. We expect the PhD candidate to have experience with animal experiments (article 9 certificate) and, preferably, some laboratory work.

The candidate should be creative, independent and have innovative ideas. The candidate should enjoy working both independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team, and have excellent organisational (time management) and communication skills (spoken and written English, networking with academic scientists of various disciplines as well as representatives from industrial stakeholders and with farmers). A good speaking level of the Dutch language is required. The candidate should be in the possession of a valid driver's license.

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess