PhD courses at Animal Production Systems

At the Animal Production Systems Group we organise three PhD courses and you can also join in two MSc courses.

Two MSc courses suitable for PhD students are APS-30306 Sustainability Assessment of Animal Systems (March-May), and APS-31306 Future Livestock Systems (May-July). Please contact the course co-ordinator if you would like to join.

Our PhD courses are:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment of Livestock Systems (5 days)
  • Tropical Farming Systems with Livestock
  • Shaping Future Animal Systems: Exploring Practices through Dialogue (2 days)

Please check the WIAS website for dates (if planned), and registration.

Environmental Impact Assessment of Livestock Systems

Background and aim - Feeding nine billion people in 2050 within the carrying capacity of the earth is perhaps the greatest challenge mankind has ever faced. An important aspect of the debate about feeding the world is the role of livestock production. The current livestock sector already poses severe pressure on the environment and competes increasingly for scarce resources, such as land, water, fossil energy and phosphorus. The demand for livestock products is expected to increase significantly. Without major changes, therefore, the above described environmental concerns about the livestock sector will increase only further. So we are facing an urgent question: how to reduce the environmental impact of production of animal-source food? To gain insight into future options and limitations of reducing the environmental impact of livestock production, we need sound environmental impact assessment tools. The aim of this course is to provide participants with advanced knowledge, both theoretical and practical, on the environmental impact assessment of livestock systems. We will discuss the latest insights of environmental impact assessment tools. Key issues addressed are: how to incorporate carbon sequestration in an assessment? How to perform an uncertainty or sensitivity analysis? How to assess land use efficiency of livestock systems? Which water footprint method is appropriate? Which metrics should we use to determine emissions of greenhouse gases? What’s the difference between a nutrient flow analysis and a life cycle assessment (LCA)? What’s the difference between an attributional or consequential LCA, and when to apply what method? How to assess the impact of livestock production on biodiversity?

Target group and registration - This PhD course will be of great interest to PhD students and professionals exploring environmental consequences of (innovations in) livestock production systems. We do expect that you have basic knowledge about the relation between livestock and the environment, nutrient flow analysis and life cycle assessment. Participants are challenged to actively contribute to discussions, and within the programme three sessions are devoted to 5-min pitches. In these 5-min pitches you can address your methodological challenge(s) so we can incorporate these challenges in our discussions.
The number of participants is limited to 40 persons, admitted on a ‘first-come’ basis. Registration fee was last time 500 € for PhD students, 800 € for other academic staff and 1200 € for company staff, this may be different for future courses. The course fee includes materials, coffee/tea during breaks, lunches and a course dinner but does not cover accommodation. For further information please contact Corina van Middelaar.

Study load - The study load of this course is 2.0 ECTS, including preparation.

Organisation - Prof. Dr. Imke de Boer & Dr. Corina van Middelaar, Animal Production Systems, Wageningen University

Tropical Farming Systems with Livestock

Background - Farming systems in developing and emerging countries are complex. Within the farm itself objectives of crop and animal production and of the farmer’s family interact. At the same time the farm is embedded in a social, economic and ecological context which determines its threats and opportunities.  Livestock Farming System Research (LFSR), with the aim to increase livestock production, to alleviate poverty or to reduce environmental impacts (or a combination of these), has been part of past and present PhD projects of Wageningen chair groups such as Animal Production Systems, Plant Production Systems, Communication and Innovation studies and Rural Development Sociology. In many of these PhD-projects two or more disciplines collaborate(d) which highlights the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. Students practicing LFSR for their PhD need to understand the interactions within and the context of the livestock farming system. Moreover, PhD-students often have to master a wide array of research methodologies such as, among others, empirical studies, quantitative modelling, participative approaches and economic cost-benefit analyses.

The PhD-students, however, often have a mono-disciplinary background, i.e. animal, plant or social sciences, and they are often even specialized within their scientific disciplines. Hence, their knowledge of content and methodologies for LFSR is often unbalanced. A PhD-student with social sciences background may know how to study gender and institutional aspects of dairy development, but will not know how to assess the on farm interactions between crops and livestock. Another example is an animal breeder who  knows how to improve the genetic potential of animals, but lacks knowledge and methods concerning constraints for implementation of crossbreeding.  In addition, many of the PhD-projects in the field of LFSR have a development component. Monitoring and evaluation of the development as a result of an intervention are often  part of the research. This does not only require a set of tools, but also skills to organise the monitoring and evaluation part within the time frame of a PhD-project. At present a course providing the required knowledge, methods  and skills to perform sound scientific LFSR is lacking.

The learning outcomes of the course are that the PhD students

  1. understand relevant theories for LFSR
  2. are able to use methodologies, which are relevant for LFSR, from various disciplines
  3. select and combine methodologies relevant for application in  their own projects
  4. are able to combine their PhD-research with development-oriented goals
  5. are equipped with tools and skills for monitoring and evaluation.

Target group - The course is aimed PhD-students of any discipline and, though specifically aimed at PhD-students from tropical and emerging countries, could be relevant for PhD-students studying complexity in western livestock production too.

Organisation - Dr. Simon Oosting, Animal Production Systems, Wageningen University

Shaping Future Animal Systems: Exploring Practices through Dialogue

Course description - Based on theories from communication and innovation sciences, natural scientists and social scientists will together analyse the failures and successes of potential solutions to create a more sustainable animal sector. Through meaningful interdisciplinary dialogue, this course seeks to strengthen our understanding of contested issues around animal production, including different perspectives of different stakeholders, and to encourage a constructive engagement with such complexity, in order to enhance our capacity to comprehend these problems and develop, evaluate and implement sustainable innovations.

Learning goals - Understand the complexity of a transition towards sustainable animal systems from different perspectives

  1. Understand different theoretical models to analyse complex animal system cases
  2. Constructively use the theoretical models for contested issues

Target group - This course is intended for PhDs, postdocs, and staff members from across a variety of natural and social science backgrounds, who want to engage with contested issues around animal production through meaningful interdisciplinary dialogue. While the course specifically targets PhD candidates from WIAS and WASS, candidates from other graduate schools and external participants are encouraged to participate as well. Since the aim is to attract a target audience from varied disciplinary backgrounds in order to enrich the dialogue, there is no specific assumed prior knowledge; this course is relevant for beginner as well as experienced researchers.

Teaching methods - Through a series of short presentations by natural and social scientists, participants will be introduced to the study case from different scientific and stakeholder perspectives; while also becoming more familiarized with the theoretical and analytical tools to engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue with and between stakeholders. Students will also partake in a series of exercises (both in smaller groups and the group as a whole) to understand different perspectives – including their own –, analyse and engage in dialogue to discuss the case of study and potential solutions, as well as reflecting on these processes and their outcomes. 

Requirements and ECTS - Individuals who follow the course receive 0.4 ECTS, through preparation for the course, attendance on both afternoons, and active participation in the discussions, exercises and reflections.

Organisation - Animal Production Systems Group & Strategic Communication Group