The transition period is a key determinant of lactation performance, health and welfare in dairy cows. The particularities of the Irish dairy production system (compact spring-calving) highlight the importance of directing efforts to guarantee a smooth transition from late-pregnancy into lactation. Optimising management during this period will prevent and minimise undesired health, production and reproduction impacts, maximise the economic return for Irish farmers from their cows, whilst also maintaining high animal welfare standards. However, there is lack of current data on transition cow health and management in Irish dairy herds. It is therefore possible that the transition period holds large potential for Irish dairy production advance towards improved sustainability. In this project, a comprehensive and integrated national level description of transition cow health and management will be pursued. Using survey tools and targeted blood analytes determinations, transition cows’ nutrition, health, management and antimicrobial use will be described in a large representative sample of national herds. Further, epidemiological data analyses will allow for 1) the identification of management and cow-level risk factors for suboptimal transition health, and 2) the quantification of suboptimal transition health impact on Irish dairy cows performance. The successful PhD candidate will work as part of a collaborative team, which includes academic and policy experts in the field of animal health and management. The student will have the opportunity to develop their skills in a broad range of areas, including animal health and management assessment, data management and analysis, writing and publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers, and networking with experts in the field. The student will also have the opportunity to attend and present research findings at (inter)national conferences. This position will allow the candidate the opportunity to work at Ireland’s leading agricultural research organisation, attain a PhD from a well-recognised Irish University, to gain a skillset and qualification that will equip them for a wide variety of future careers, and to significantly contribute to the improvement of transition dairy cow health and management in Ireland.
Candidates should have a first or upper second-class honours degree or M.Sc. in an appropriate discipline (Veterinary Science, Agricultural Science or similar). Candidates with veterinary experience will have a significant advantage. The successful candidate should be highly self-motivated and be prepared for intensive periods of field work with animals in different locations. The candidate must be proficient in both written and spoken English. A full EU (B) driving licence is required. For applicants whose first language is not English, requirements outlined here.
The PhD Scholarship is a joint research project between Teagasc, Moorepark and University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin. The student will be based at the Teagasc Research Centre, Fermoy, Ireland and will be registered at UCD (Dublin Campus) working under the supervision of Dr. Ainhoa Valldecabres (Teagasc) and Dr. Conor McAloon (UCD). The Scholarship will start on the 1st September 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter. The scholarship funding is €24,000 per annum and includes University fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum and is tenable for four years.