Doctoral Researcher in Development of Innovative Tools For Monitoring Health In Dairy Cows

KU Leuven



Innovative technological developments in animal husbandry provide new opportunities for further optimizing animal production within an ecologically responsible context and with the guarantee of good welfare for animals and farmers. The "Livestock Technology" group of KU Leuven, led by Prof. dr. Ben Aernouts develops, evaluates and implements innovative measurement and monitoring techniques to support good animal management on livestock farms. The research team operates from the KU Leuven campus in Geel, in the middle of a green environment and in close connection with industry and the livestock sector.

Thanks to improved genetics, feed and management, milk production per cow has almost doubled in the last 50 years. Just like top athletes, these animals need a lot of care and attention to be able to pursue high productions with a guarantee of good health and animal welfare and with minimal impact on the environment. In addition, a high volatility of the milk price ensures that further optimization, risk management and scaling up continue to force itself into the dairy sector. In order to better manage this growing herd, dairy farmers need reliable technology to monitor the health, production, behavior, welfare and environmental impact of individual animals.
Sensor technology is already well integrated in dairy farming, with applications in measuring and registering, among other things, milk production, milk quality, feed intake, behavior and condition of animals. However, many of these systems overload the livestock farmer with a mass of unclear data, instead of useful, clear and accurate information that can help to further optimize animal management. In essence, precision husbandry is about the correct interpretation of the collected data and the extraction of reliable and useful information using advanced data processing techniques.
In this doctoral research, data-based tools for monitoring udder health and the energy balance in dairy cows will be developed, validated and implemented. In addition to the data from sensors that are already installed on many dairy farms today, new innovative measurements and technology will also be used and implemented in this study. At the end of this 4-year doctoral project, practical implementation of the developed models and knowledge will lead to positive economic consequences for dairy farmers through increased animal health and welfare, more efficient use of labor and medicines and a broader social basis for sustainable dairy farming.

To conduct this practice-oriented research, the Livestock Technology group of KU Leuven is looking for a highly motivated and independent doctoral researcher. 
Do you have:
  • an MSc degree (with at least distinction) in the life sciences, bioscience engineering, bioinformatics, biostatistics, veterinary medicine or equivalent
  • a creative, critical, analytical and innovative attitude
  • strong communication skills, both in Dutch and in English
  • want to work together in a multidisciplinary team of national and international researchers to discover and develop new techniques
  • strong interest in dairy farming, technology, data processing and scientific research
  • the ambition to build a career in data processing
Then you are THE candidate we are looking for and we would like you to apply for this exciting PhD position.
Experience with scientific data processing software (eg Matlab, Python, R, C or similar) and modeling is a plus.

We offer full-time employment for 4 years starting on 1 September 2019 or earlier and with an evaluation after 1 year. Our young, dynamic, multidisciplinary and professional team will support you extensively in conducting your research and obtaining your doctoral degree. We offer tailor-made doctoral training within one of the best universities in Europe. Moreover, we offer the possibility to work directly with Flemish dairy farmers, the experimental farm for the dairy farm "Hooibeekhoeve" and dairy experts outside our university. You also have the opportunity to regularly test your research plan and results with the various stakeholders at national and international meetings and conferences.

More information is available from Prof. Ben Aernouts, tel .: +32 14 72 13 64, mail:
You can apply for this vacancy up to and including 01/06/2019 via our online application application
KU Leuven wants to create an environment in which all talents can develop to the maximum, regardless of gender, age, cultural origin, nationality or disability. If you have any questions regarding accessibility or support options, you can contact us via

In your application, please refer to