Anatomically detailed, biophysically governed modelling of energy flows in dairy cows

PhD Project

Dairy cows are the engines of the dairy industry, an industry critical to the economy of many countries like New Zealand. Climate change is posing significant challenges to this industry; specifically the growing demand to reduce enteric methane emission, to reduce nitrogen losses from farms whilst ensuring productivity as the cows manage thermal stress and adapt to changes in feed composition. Although, mathematical models of the dairy cow are widely used. These models do not always satisfy physical laws such as energy balance, mass conservation etc. This constrains our ability to investigate the physiological implications of the interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, manage urinary N excretion and thermal stress etc.
The aim of this PhD is to:
  1.  Develop an anatomically detailed model of the dairy cow such that physical laws govern the material and energy flows. 
  2. Setup a digital framework to enable comparative analysis across breeds based on these models, their parameters and anatomical differences. Specific focus will be on the partitioning and flow of metabolic energy to support the cow’s economically critical physiological functions such as milk production, feed efficiency, methane and nitrogen excretion, fertility and ability to cope with thermal stress.

This model development will be in collaboration with DairyNZ. Successful candidate will be supported with tuition fees and tax free stipend ($28.5K pa).

Desired skills

Ideal candidates will have a strong background in biology, chemistry and a keen interest in applied mathematics. Experience with computer modelling and good communication skills are necessary.