PhD position OT-21902

Feeding and reproduction strategies evaluated by modelling to optimize the production and reproduction performance of dairy cows as well as their welfare (STAR)

35590 Saint-Gilles

Back to jobs listing

INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) is a major player in research and innovation. It is a community of 12,000 people with 272 research, experimental research, and support units located in 18 regional centres throughout France. Internationally, INRAE is among the top research organisations in the agricultural and food sciences, plant and animal sciences, as well as in ecology and environmental science. It is the world’s leading research organisation specialising in agriculture, food and the environment. INRAE’s goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. Faced with a growing world population, climate change, resource scarcity, and declining biodiversity, the Institute has a major role to play in building solutions and supporting the necessary acceleration of agricultural, food and environmental transitions.

You will be welcomed within the mixed research unit Physiology, Environment and Genetics for Animals and Livestock Systems (UMR PEGASE) located in St-Gilles near Rennes. This unit conducts research aimed at better understanding the interactions between animals, farming practices and the environment in order to contribute to the development of more sustainable farming systems.


Work environment, missions and activities

Socio-economic and scientific context

Managing dairy cows by optimizing their diet and their reproduction is a major lever for improving the economic results of farms, reducing their environmental impact and improving animal welfare (e.g. health, longevity). This project responds to several socio-economic challenges: i) Design and evaluate sustainable feeding strategies to minimize the feed cost and environmental impact of dairy farming; ii) Ensure cow health through strategies that minimize the risk of metabolic and reproductive diseases, and improve longevity; iii) Address consumer concerns associated with dairy farming (environmental impact, animal welfare). This thesis is part of the InSiliCow research project (emblematic project of the INRAE DIGIT-BIO metaprogram) whose longer-term ambition is to produce a decision-making tool for improving the feeding and reproduction behaviors of dairy cows, sufficiently flexible and robust to adapt to the variability of breeding contexts and the amount of information available on a farm. The project aims to address a new generation of breeding systems capable of automatically collecting and processing information on animals. There is an interest for both i) breeders because the diversification of breeding methods and the herd size increase imply greater variability in the needs and responses of cows to different factors, hence the interest of developing automated and individualized management plan systems; and ii) the livestock equipment sector: for innovative approaches combining modeling and data mining with decision-making.

Assumptions and questions

Research question: What combined feeding and reproduction strategies can optimize the performance and welfare of dairy cows?
Hypothesis 1: A diet adjusted according to the characteristics of each animal (age, weight, physical activity, metabolic profile) would improve the performance and welfare of dairy cows.

Hypothesis 2: Voluntary late insemination for primiparous cows would improve the performance and welfare of dairy cows.
Hypothesis 3: It is necessary to develop different management strategies depending on the technologies available in the target farm (presence or not of certain sensors and automatons to collect data necessary for the model) and on the environmental conditions.

The main steps of the thesis and scientific procedure

Step 1: Compile production and welfare data, collected in the experimental partners farms of the InSiliCow project before the thesis, and learn to use the simulator (short stay at UMR MoSAR)
Step 2: Identify and quantify the effect of different factors (characteristics of the ration, the animal, the environment, etc.) on the performance of dairy cows and their welfare (here integrating health and behavior of the animal via the study of its physical activity and its feeding behavior). Participate in the implementation of these parameters in the InSiliCow simulation model
Step 3: Simulate feeding and reproduction strategies to optimize performance and welfare, based on the technologies available in the target farm.

travel in France and abroad, in particular stay to be planned in the premises of the UMR MoSAR on the Paris-Saclay campus

Training and skills

Master's degree/Engineering degree

Animal sciences (especially dairy systems), computer science, writing in English (and potentially in French – not mandatory)

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from (depending on the type of contract and its duration):

- up to 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: trainingcareer advise;
social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

How to apply

As a first step, please contact
Applications will have to be submitted on the ED EGAAL platform ( before 30th of May 2024. The (virtual) interviews will take place at the beginning of June 2024.

GAILLARD_PEGASE_STAR_FR_EN_AnnoceADeposer-EN.pdfpdf - 117.91 KB

Offer reference

  • Contract: PhD position
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Beginning: 01/09/2024
  • Remuneration: 2100 € gross monthly salary
  • Reference: OT-21902
  • Deadline: 30/05/2024


Living in France and working at INRAE Our guide for international scientists

Learn more