PhD position: Re-thinking livestock farming systems for a sustainable future

Updated: 4 months ago

We are looking for

A PhD candidate to explore improvement options to address the most pressuring suitability issues of pasture-based livestock farming systems in Ireland. The research will have the aim to i) characterise current cattle/sheep farms in Ireland; ii) determine the major environmental and social challenges they face (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing the competition between food and feed, etc.); iii) search the option space for solutions and for alternative production systems; and iv) evaluate the consequences of such changes for the farm in itself (economic, social and environmental performance). The analysis will further explore how changes at farm level interact, resulting in synergies and trade-offs, with the five soil functions described in the conceptual framework “Functional Land Management” (i.e. production of food, feed and fibre, provision of habitats for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water regulation and cycling of nutrients).
This research project will involve desk work, such as reviewing literature, creating and managing databases, performing statistical analysis and modelling economic and environmental performance of farming systems.  Participatory approaches with farmers and other relevant stakeholders will also take place.

We ask

For this interdisciplinary project, we are looking for an enthusiastic result-driven person with an appropriate degree in animal or environmental sciences, or in biology or ecology, and an interest to work with other agricultural disciplines. You have excellent command of the English language, and you communicate efficiently and excel in problem solving. You have experience in modelling, designing and executing experiments and are familiar with data management. You are acquainted with effective and creative visualisation of results. In addition, you are a team-player and are highly effective in time and project planning. Proven knowledge and interest in modelling (with Microsoft Visual Studio, GAMS, R or similar) is desirable.
Prerequisites for application subject to the Innovative Training Network of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions:

  • You have been living and working/studying outside the Netherlands before 1st March 2018
  • Be available and willing to travel

We offer
  • A challenging job for a period of 4 years (12 months at Animal Production Systems group with an extension of 36 months at Devenish Nutrition after successful evaluation).
  • A job in an international setting with varied work and plenty of opportunities for personal development in a pleasant and open working environment.
  • The gross salary will be of € 2,325 per month
  • Good training and education opportunities
  • Expected starting date: 1st September 2019

More information

For questions about this vacancy you can contact dr. Raimon Ripoll Bosch (Mail:;  tel: +31 (0)317-481909) or Dr. Jean Kennedy (Mail:

You can apply until (and including) May 15th 2019. Upload your CV and a short motivation letter via the website of Wageningen University & Research;
Please don’t email directly to the persons mentioned above.

We are

The Animal Production Systems group uses systems approach to understand complex livestock systems in order to explore and design a sustainable future. We help to solve complex sustainability problems – global food security, climate change, water scarcity, depletion of fossil fuels and phosphorus, and achieving respectful animal production – we are facing today.

Devenish is a farming and food company, delivering sustainable and innovative nutritional products and solutions for the feed industry, the food industry and for human health.
This PhD project is part of the EU2020 project HeartLand (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Rural development: Training network for LAND management), an Innovative Training Network of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

The project
Ruminants are increasingly in the spotlight because of their impact on the environment and human health. Ruminant farming has been associated with land use change (especially deforestation), greenhouse gas emissions, pollution of soils and water, biodiversity loss, and noncommunicable diseases. Grazing ruminants, however, can also have positive contributions. Ruminants not only convert biomass unsuitable for direct human consumption into valuable food; in addition, grazing systems can also provide a wide range of other ecosystem services, such as enhancing biodiversity, increasing carbon sequestration, and water regulation. Therefore, there is a need to re-think . The diversity of farm types and managements will require the formulation of differentiated transition pathways in line with societal demands.
to train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative PhD graduates to investigate how to create economically and environmentally sustainable livestock products of enhanced nutritional value through pasture-based production systems. HeartLand will explore and integrate the relationships between soil, sward, animal, farm management, environment and ultimately human health. HeartLand will be recruiting 5 PhD candidates to develop their projects in the domains of soil biology, grassland sciences and sward composition, animal nutrition and performance, farming systems and modelling, and environmental sciences.
This PhD project corresponds to the domain of farming systems, modelling, and environmental sciences. The project will be developed at the Animal Production Systems group of Wageningen University & Research (the Netherlands) in the first year and at Devenish Nutrition (Ireland) the subsequent three years.

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