PhD Scholarship - Big Data for Beef and Dairy: Understanding the Effects of Variation in Individual Animal Production on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Massey University

This is an exciting opportunity to undertake a PhD as part of a project investigating the effects of variation in individual animal production (Dairy and Beef) on greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand.

Increasing individual animal productivity can be a very effective strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of livestock product. The maintenance requirements of animals are dependent principally upon bodyweight and thus do not change as a function of production. As this daily nutrient requirement is applicable to every animal, the maintenance requirement of the livestock population therefore may be considered as a fixed cost of production. When applied to the livestock industry, decreasing variance in performance and improving productivity of an individual animal (such as greater quantity of milk or meat) produced in a set period of time, the total maintenance cost and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food produced is reduced. This project aims to examine the variation in individual production of finishing beef animals and dairy cows and how this variance relates to greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food produced. Understanding the variability in livestock performance (Dairy and Beef) is an important step to being able to identify effective measures that can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An initial step within the project is to identify variance of animal performance within a herd, at the national and farm level. The project will also investigate a methodology to continuously measure physical performance of individual animals while providing information about feed quality intake.  The project will utilise advanced data analytic techniques and investigate the use of machine learning and AI on a very rich data set to evaluate the effect of sub-optimal performance and estimate effective management intervention strategies.

Candidates will hold an undergraduate degree in animal science or related field, and a relevant postgraduate qualification with skills and experience in data analytics. Knowledge of livestock management and nutrition is essential, together with big data analytics, fieldwork experience on farm and complying with relevant animal welfare regulations.

The project will be funded by a research grant and will provide a 3-year PhD stipend of $25,000 per annum (tax free), plus university fees and operating costs. The student will be enrolled and based at Massey University, New Zealand. Please apply by sending a cover letter and a CV to Dr Ina Draganova (

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