Elsa Vasseur

Elsa Vasseur

Animal Science (Macdonald Campus)
McGill University

Chair title

NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle

Chair program

Industrial Research Chairs program


Associate Chairholder since 2016


Dairy industries worldwide face the challenge of producing the highest-quality products under a system that must maximize production. These goals are achieved through an understanding of the dairy cow’s nutritional and physiological needs, tempered by society’s expectations of environmentally friendly systems, animal quality of life, and economic availability. Dairy cattle do not currently remain in the herd long enough, resulting not only in greater expenses for the industry and its products but, equally importantly, in a situation that puts the industry under scrutiny for its management, values, and attitude to dairy-cow welfare. Sustainable agriculture is frequently defined as “ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just.” Consequently, for sustainable animal farming, the animal itself is the focus. This research program will build on that animal-centred definition in the context of dairy cattle, and their complex interactions will be addressed under three major Research Themes. The first (Cow Comfort and Management) will concentrate on the needs of producers in providing a suitable environment for future compliance needs, but, more importantly, in better understanding the comfort needs of their animals. The research will lead to recommendations on appropriate welfare-management practices, something that both the Québec and Canadian dairy industries are adamant be put in place. This could have major consequences for individual producers and their production systems. The second research theme (Cow Longevity) will look at the sustainability of the industry in terms of long-term profitability measures and survival of its animals. The third research theme (Environment and Society) takes a broad look at international standards, life-cycle studies, and consumer acceptability.

Dr. Elsa Vasseur is an Assistant Professor in McGill University’s Department of Animal Science. Her background education in rural development, animal behaviour, and on-farm dairy-cattle welfare makes her the ideal Chairholder for this initiative. Her well-established relationships with the industry partners have already helped to define on-farm standards for welfare at the national level (Dairy Farmers of Canada). As well, she has worked with local producers by investigating risk factors affecting cow longevity, and understanding barriers to the adoption of best practices (Novalait and Valacta).

This program will involve researchers at McGill (Dairy Information Systems Group) as well as collaborators across Canada and internationally. The multidisciplinary nature of the research, as well as the continued teamwork with the partners, will ensure maximum knowledge transfer to the producers and resulting benefits for the dairy industry, the Canadian economy and consumers seeking sustainable products.


  • Novalait inc.
  • Dairy Farmers of Canada
  • Valacta

Contact information

Animal Science (Macdonald Campus)
McGill University



Contact Newsletter

Get highlights of things happening at NSERC delivered to your email inbox. View all Newsletters

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Youtube
  • Instagram