Robustness: from a wooly concept to operational measures (April 2019)

This doctoral module will discuss the concept of animal robustness as a complex, multi-level and dynamic concept, and its relevance in management strategies.

Presentation of the module  

Farm animals are constantly facing perturbations due to changing environmental and farm conditions, which influence their performance and health. Characterization of animal response when faced with these perturbations is of main concern to ensure a sustainable production. Indeed, a better understanding of the adaptation mechanisms used by the animal to cope with these perturbations (through resistance and resilience) is a prerequisite to propose adequate farm management strategies and for the development of precision livestock farming systems. Several experimental studies were conducted to investigate the influence of environment on the performance of farm animals. To get the most out of experimental data, the use of mathematical models is necessary to consider the systemic aspect of animal response. Accordingly, in this course, we will discuss different modelling tools to quantify and characterize the animal’s adaptive response and the robustness trait. 

Course objectives   

  • To provide the elements for understanding the concept of animal robustness as a complex, multi- level and dynamic concept. We will also discuss its relevance in management strategies.
  • To discuss the multi-components aspect of robustness, and the fact that the trade-off between different functions (e.g. survival, production and reproduction) is necessary to ensure the robustness of an animal.
  • To provide mathematical and statistical tools to characterize and quantify this important trait.

It is worthwhile to mention that this course helps the participants to boost their international network. 

Course provided by :

Target audience/prerequisite   

The school is addressed to French and International PhD students, all biologists and animal scientists (Post docs, educational staff and professional) interested in the robustness concept and the modelling tools to characterize it.

Basic notions on biology, mainly the concept of robustness is appreciated. You do not need to be modeller for participation in this school.  


  • Introduction to the robustness, animal adaptation and resilience faced with different types of perturbation (e.g. sanitary and nutritional challenges, heat stress and any types of environmental perturbations).
  • State of the art of current problems in breeding programs for different species of farm animals and the influence on production performance: e.g. acidosis in ruminants, diarrhea at weaning for monogastrics, non-controlled environmental perturbations, etc.
  • New technologies of phenotyping: from high throughput omic data at different levels to high frequency data of precision livestock systems.
  • Statistical and mathematical methods for modelling and analysis of phenotyping data; to extract biological meaningful information, especially to quantify the robustness trait. In this part of the course, we explain that the type of data drives the choice of the adequate analysis strategy.
  • Finally, we discuss the possibility for the farmers and breeding companies to apply these robustness indicators.

The school includes plenary lectures, practical works and seminars.
We put a focus on time dedicated to practical works and discussions (at least 50 percent of school time).   

Course instructors
Masoomeh Taghipoor (Inra, MoSAR)
Celine Domange (AgroParisTech, MoSAR)
Nicolas Friggens (Inra, MoSAR)
Sylvie Giger Reverdin (Inra, MoSAR)
Christelle Loncke (AgroParisTech MoSAR)
Lucile Montagne (AgroCampusOuest, Pegase)
Rafael Munoz Tamayo (Inra, MoSAR)
Philippe Schmidely (AgroParisTech, MoSAR)
Practical information
Registration form 
Please fulfill the online
registration form, and send your CV and the agreement of your supervisor or head of department to:

Registration deadline
February 2019

April 1-5, 2019

AgroParisTech Paris
16, rue Claude Bernard, Paris 5

Course fee
PhD students
The module is free of charge

Young scientists and professionals
400 euros

The course registration includes course materials and coffee breaks. 

Lunches, diners and accommodation are in charge of candidates.