Zootechnical Dairy Research

Animal trials consistent with ethics code


Since the 1970s, ILVO has been developing its knowledge about the nutrient requirements of dairy cattle, the nutritional value of common feedstuffs, feed intake, excretions into the environment and the effect of feed on milk composition. These themes continue to be important research topics. In addition, we now study various by-products as well as own-farm production of feed crops in terms of those crops’ valorisation potential and their use in dairy cattle nutrition. This research focuses on nutrition and management for the health of dairy cows and reduction of their environmental emissions and excretions as well as testing additives to optimise production and milk composition.

The dairy herd counts an average of about 90-95 lactating Holstein cows.


  • zoötechnische proeven melkveeFeed experiments with dairy cattle, with or without testing of the consequences on milk composition or metabolic parameters
    The Animal Sciences Unit has the know-how, personnel and accommodation to carry out feed experiments with dairy cattle. Roughage is produced on the ILVO farm. Concentrates can be formulated and produced in the experimental feed mill in consultation with the client. This guarantees the precision required to conduct the research. Standard zootechnical parameters are measured (feed intake, live weight, milk production, milk composition and derived parameters). Other measurements are also possible. Depending on the research topic, several types of experimental design can be used. Consultation prior to the experiment and continuous monitoring in combination with interim consultation with the client are essential. Apart from the classic feed experiments, the ILVO staff has experience with conducting trials in which certain physiological effects are studied such as estimation of the microbial protein synthesis, absorption of certain nutrients in the blood and other aspects.
  • Digestion and nutrient balance experiments with dairy cows
    As for the feed experiments mentioned above, ILVO has all the necessary equipment and know-how to carry out thorough digestion and balance experiments with dairy cattle under controlled field conditions. Apart from feed and water intake, urine, faeces and milk can be collected separately for the determination of balances and excretions. Other physiological parameters can also be monitored.
  • Gas exchange experiments
    Since the autumn of 2011, the group has 6 gas exchange chambers used to study the effect of strategies on the emissions of methane, ammonia, nitrous oxide and CO2 on an individual basis. At the same time, urine and faeces can be collected separately in order to make a complete balance of nutrients .


gait analysisThe Precision Livestock Farming research group works on objectifying and automating animal-related parameters as well as the continuous and simultaneous monitoring of large groups of animals at individual level. This makes the daily, automatic, real-time and continuous monitoring of individual animals possible. New techniques are developed or existing sensors/technologies are adapted for this purpose.

ILVO’s scientific expertise and technical support during measurements are available, under experimental as well as field conditions. Specific expertise is available on measurement of the teats of dairy cows and (early) detection of lameness in cows based on gait analysis.


Sam De Campeneere (animal husbandry), Stephanie Van Weyenberg (agricultural engineering)