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31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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PhD offer: Lameness in young bulls: epidemiological features and zootechnical impact

PhD offer: Lameness in young bulls

Unit : UMR INRAE/Oniris BIOEPAR – Team PEPS – Oniris Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire, Alimentaire et de l’Alimentation de Nantes Atlantique
Thesis director and co-supervisor: Raphaël Guatteo – Professor– ; Anne Relun – Associate professor –

Socio-economic and scientific context

Lameness in cattle is a multifactorial disease, mostly caused by foot lesions. It is increasingly reported in young bulls in France, particularly at the end of the fattening period, becoming the main cause of economic losses and animal welfare concerns in some feedlots. Farmers and their advisors are often helpless to choose control measures, with a sometimes abusive use of antibiotics, because knowledge is lacking on the origin of lameness in young bulls, with few control measures adapted to this production system. The results of this thesis will help determine the epidemiological characteristics and estimate the zootechnical impact of foot lesions in young bulls in France. They will thus help raise stakeholders awareness of lameness as a problem in these animals, promote appropriate antibiotic use and provide the first steps towards improving their control in indoor confined feedlots.

Assumptions and questions

The control of lameness in young bulls in France is likely to be limited because: (1) their clinical and zootechnical impact is poorly known and probably underestimated; (2) foot lesions are different from those reported in other countries and in dairy cattle as they are associated with specific animal characteristics and rearing conditions; (3) young bulls breeders have limited knowledge of lameness and its control and strong technical and economic constraints to control it.This thesis thus aims to answer the following questions in the French context:
- What is the prevalence of foot lesions in late-fattening young bulls?
- What is the distribution (breed, calving season, etc.) of these foot lesions?
- What is the zootechnical impact of lameness in young bulls?
- What are the practices currently used by farmers to control lameness in young cattle?
- What are the limits for the implementation of lameness control measures in indoor feedlots?

The main steps of the thesis and scientific procedure 

To this purpose, the PhD student will:
- Familiarize with the state of the art on lameness, its origins, impacts and control measures in young bulls;
- Design, set up and carry out a large-scale observational epidemiological study in slaughterhouses in France to estimate the prevalence and distribution of foot lesions in young bulls at the end of fattening and to estimate their zootechnical impact;
- Design, set up and carry out semi-directive interviews and questionnaires with young bulls breeders to investigate the limits for the implementation of measures to control lameness in indoor feedlots and to precise their prevalence and zootechnical impact;
- Analyse and valorize the results, write the thesis manuscript.
Methodological and technical approaches considered (4-6 lines)
The PhD student will use descriptive observational epidemiological studies, whether to estimate the prevalence of lameness and foot lesions, their distribution and zootechnical impact, or to describe practices and limitations for the implementation of control measures. The data collected will be analysed using descriptive analyses and multivariate models.

Scientific and technical skills required by the candidate

The candidate:
- should have a DVM degree or a degree (Master’s degree, engineer) in epidemiology or animal science with an interest in animal health and welfare;
- should have a demonstrable interest in data analysis;
- should have good writing and communication skills in the English and French language, both within the academic as well as the non-academic setting.
Being familiar with statistical software packages (especially R) will be a real advantage.

Download the thesis offer:

The application must be submitted on the website of the EGAAL doctoral school :