Elsa Vasseur

Assistant Professor and Associate Chairholder
NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle

T: 514-398-7799  |  elsa [dot] vasseur [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)  |  Macdonald-Stewart Building, MS1-087  | 
cowlifemcgill.blogspot.com |     @CowLifeMcGill

 

Degrees

BSc Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, ISA Lille (2002)
MSc Rural Development (2004) ISA Lille
MSc Animal Behavior (2005) AgroParisTech
PhD Animal Sciences (2009) Université Laval

Awards and Recognitions

NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle (current)
NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship (Visiting Fellowships in Canadian Government Laboratories Program) (2010-2011)

Short Bio

Dr. Elsa Vasseur is the Associate Chairholder of the NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. She received both her BSc and her first MSc in Rural Development from the Institut Supérieur d'Agriculture in Lille, France as well as a second MSc in Animal Behaviour from AgroParisTech in 2005. She then came to Canada where she obtained her PhD in Animal Science from Université Laval in 2009, looking at assessment tools for the on-farm welfare of young dairy animals. After an NSERC Post-doctoral Fellowship, where she worked with some of Canada’s leading researchers in dairy-cattle welfare at the University of British Columbia and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, she took up a position at the University of Guelph’s Organic Dairy Research Centre on the Alfred Campus, before joining McGill in January as the Associate Chairholder.

Professor Vasseur has an impressive résumé of refereed publications, and scientific presentations, including several keynote seminars. She has been involved in the direction of 14 graduate students to date, and has hit the ground running at McGill with 2 PhDs, and 1 MSc already enrolled in her first official month on the job! Apart from the specific goals of the Chair (in collaboration with Novalait, DFC, and Valacta), Elsa’s research interests include: the investigation of risk factors to cow longevity; defining better standards for on-farm management systems; and understanding the barriers to the adoption of best practices. Her international interests and experience include a CIDA project in the DR Congo looking at reducing poverty through renewable charcoal-based agroforestry systems; and work in Jordan comparing goat and sheep value chains.

Elsa Vasseur is a member of the International Committee for animal welfare and well-being, the Canadian Dairy Research Cluster, the National Development Program for Animal Care Assessment, and the Working Group of the Canadian General Standards Board for the revision of Canadian organic standards.

Active Affiliations

Academic:

Adjunct Faculty, Université Laval, Département des sciences animales (since 2013)
Adjunct Faculty, University of Guelph, Animal Bioscience (since 2013)
Special Graduate Faculty, University of Guelph, Department of Population Medicine (since 2011)
Associated Faculty, Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare CCSAW (since 2012)

Scientific:

Vice-president of the Canadian Society of Animal Science CSAS (2016, elected board member since 2014)
Member of Op+lait grouping of researchers on milk quality through FQRNT strategic grouping program (since 2016)
Member of the International Society for Applied Ethology ISAE (since 2007)

Industry:

Member: Strategic Committees for Dairy Welfare and Organic Dairy by Valacta (since 2012 & 2013)
Member: Advisory Committee Pro’Action Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), 2014-2016
In support of the Livestock Working Group for the revision of the Canadian organic standards, Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB), 2014
Member: National Program Development Team of DFC-NFACC Animal Care Assessment Program (2011-2012)

Government:

Member: Steering committee for Stratégie québécoise de santé et de bien-être des animaux (since 2015)

Research Interests

Vasseur and her team will primarily focus their research work for the next 5 years on the NSERC-Novalait-DFC-Valacta IRC on Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. Three main research themes will be covered (Cf. Figure 1:F Overview of the research program the NSERC-Novalait-DFC-Valacta IRC on Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. Percentage reflect relative emphasis on time, budget and HQP allocation.):

Theme 1: Cow comfort and Management

The first research theme will focus on producers’ needs to provide a suitable environment for future compliance requirements; another goal is to better understand the needs for animal comfort. As current research on comfort is mostly with free stall systems, it is relevant, to optimize recommendations, to carry out projects with tie-stall systems which are predominant in Quebec and in Canadian dairies. An example of research question is: Could some farming practices compensate for deficient stall configuration?

Theme 2: Cow longevity

The second research theme will focus on the sustainability of the industry in terms of long - term measures of profitability and survival of animals in the herds. Replacement animals and cows in production will be under scrutiny. Projects of this theme will benefit from data collected on the commercial farms and Valacta database. An example of research question is: What is the relationship between rearing and cow cow longevity?

Theme 3: Environment and Society

The third research theme will broaden the perspective on international standards, life cycle analyses, and consumer acceptability. We will validate that the measures to improve cow welfare and longevity are not in contradiction with the overall sustainability (environmental, economic and social) of dairy farming. An example of research question is: Could improving comfort may conflict with improving the environmental footprint?

 

Elsa Vasseur with her team—L-R (front row) Sirine EL Hamdaoui, Santiago Palacio, Elise Shepley, Tania Wolfe; back row: Jessica St John, Elsa Vasseur, Hector Delgado, Véronique Boyer Current Research

  • NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Valacta Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle, Associate Chairholder: Elsa Vasseur, financed by NSERC, Novalait, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Valacta through NSERC Industrial Research Chair grants (2016-2020)
  • Développement de bioindicateurs dans le lait pour prédire le niveau de confort et de santé (Transl. Development of comprehensive biomarkers in milk to predict dairy cow welfare), PI: Elsa Vasseur, financed by Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FRQNT) in coll. with CRIBIQ, Novalait and Valacta through Programme de recherche en partenariat (2016-2019)
  • Outil d'évaluation coûts-bénéfices de bonnes pratiques d'élevage pour le bien-être des vaches laitières (Transl. Costs-benefits evaluation tool for the implementation of best practices leading to improving dairy cattle welfare), PI : Elsa Vasseur, financed by Ministère Agriculture, Pêcheries et Alimentation (MAPAQ) (QC) through Innov’Action program (2016-2019)
  • Valorisation des données générées par les robots de traite pour appuyer la gestion de troupeau (Transl. Valorisation of AMS databases for improved management), PI: Elsa Vasseur, postdoctoral scholarchip (co-applicant: Liliana Fadul-Pacheco, Postdoc candidate McGill U), financed by Mitacs through Elevate program, in coll. with Valacta (2016-2018)
  • Regroupement de recherche pour un lait de qualité optimale (Transl. FRQNT Op+Lait), PI : Elsa Vasseur, doctoral scholarship (co-applicant : Santiago Palacio, PhD candidate McGill U), financed by Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FRQNT) through strategic grouping program (2016-2017)
  • Développement d'un indice global de bien-être animal à partir des données de contrôle laitier (Transl. Development of a cow welfare index based on DHI data), PI: Daniel Lefebvre, Valacta, financed by Ministère Agriculture, Pêcheries et Alimentation (MAPAQ) (QC) through Programme de développement sectoriel (2016-2018)
  • Effects of feeding a yeast-derived microbial protein source on production, reproduction and behavioural parameters in transition dairy cows, PI: Arif Mustafa, McGill University, financed by Mitacs through Accelerate program, in coll. with Belisle Solution Nutrition Inc. (2016-2017)
  • Effect of exercise and stall modifications on cow comfort and performance in tie-stall farms (Activity D.43.74, PI: Elsa Vasseur, McGill University/University of Guelph), financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada through AgriScience Clusters programs, Growing Forward 2 (2014-2017)
  • Development of sustainable alternative sources of bedding for dairy cows (Activity D.42.73, PI: Renée Bergeron, University of Guelph), financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada through AgriScience Clusters programs, Growing Forward 2 (2014-2017)
  • Bioactive products from plants and control of internal and external parasites in large ruminants (Activity D.45.71, PI: Simon Lachance, University of Guelph-Kemptville Campus), financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada through AgriScience Clusters programs, Growing Forward 2 (2014-2017)
  • Innovative feeding and best management practices for the very young dairy calf to improve calf performance (Activity P11, PI: Derek Haley, University of Guelph), financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada through AgriScience Clusters programs, Growing Forward 2 (2013-2017)
  • Better animal welfare leads to improved animal health and longevity and economic advantages to dairy producers (Activity P10, PI: Doris Pellerin, Université Laval), financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada through AgriScience Clusters programs, Growing Forward 2 (2013-2017)
  • Automatic Milking Systems: factors affecting health, productivity and welfare (Activity P10, PI: Ed Pajor, University of Calgary), financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada through AgriScience Clusters programs, Growing Forward 2 (2013-2017)

Courses

AGRI 215 Agro-Ecosystems Field Course 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Select Publications

Articles in refereed publications

1.Vasseur, E. (submitted). Invited symposium paper: Optimizing outcome measures of welfare in dairy cattle assessment. Journal of Animal Science # E-2016-0880

2.Bouffard, V., de Passillé, A. M., Rushen, J., Vasseur, E., Nash, C. G. R., Haley, D. B., and D. Pellerin. (submitted). Impact of following recommendations for tie-stall configuration on neck and leg lesions, lameness, cleanliness and lying time in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. # JDS-16-11842

3.Shepley E, Bergeron R, and Vasseur E. (in review). Invited paper: Daytime access to pasture vs. free-stall barn in dairy cows with year-long outdoor experience: A case study. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. #APPLAN-S-16-00170

4. Vasseur E, Hambly Odame H, Alliez A, Garba Abdou M, O’Brien P, Syauswa D, Buensi J, Ntangu M, and Lejoly J. (in review). Capacity development for incubatees of agroforestry entrepreneurship and innovation in The Democratic Republic of Congo. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension. # RAEE-2015-0035

5. Franco-Gendron N, Bergeron R, Curilla W, DeVries T, Conte S, and Vasseur E (2016). Investigation of dairy cattle ease of movement on new methyl methacrylate resin aggregate floorings. J. Dairy Sci. #JDS-16-11125.R1

6. Shepley E, Bergeron R, Bécotte F, and Vasseur E (2016). Dairy cow preference for open air exercise during winter under Eastern Canada climatic conditions. Canadian Journal of Animal Science. #CJAS-2016-0028.R1 7. Nash C, Kelton D, DeVries T, Vasseur E, Cow J, Heyerhoff Zaffino J C, Bouffard V, Pellerin D, Rushen J, de Passillé A M, and Haley D (2016) Prevalence of, and risk factors for, hock and knee injuries on dairy cows in tiestall housing in Canada. J. Dairy Sci. #JDS-15-10676.R2

8. Westin R, Vaughan A; de Passillé A M, DeVries T J, Pajor E A, Pellerin D, Siegford J M, Witaifi A, Vasseur E, and Rushen J (2016). Cow and farm-level risk factors for lameness on dairy farms with automated milking systems. J. Dairy Sci. 99: 3732-3743.

9. Solano L, Barkema H, Pajor E, Mason S, LeBlanc S, Zaffino Heyerhoff J, Nash C, Haley D, Pellerin D, Rushen J, de Passillé A M, Vasseur E, and Orsel K (2016). Associations between lying time behavior and lameness in Canadian Holstein-Friesian cows in freestall barns J. Dairy Sci. 99:2086-101

10. Ouellet V, Vasseur E, Heuwieser W, Burfeind O, Maldague X, and Charbonneau E (2016). Evaluation of calving indicators measured by automated devices to predict the onset of calving in Holstein dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 99:1539-48

11.Villettaz Robichaud M, de Passillé A M, Pearl D L, LeBlanc S J, Godden S M, Pellerin D, Vasseur E, Rushen J, and Haley D B (2016). Calving management practices on Canadian dairy farms: Prevalence of practices. J. Dairy Sci. 99:2391-2404

12. Westin R, Vaughan A; de Passillé A M, DeVries T J, Pajor E A, Pellerin D, Siegford J M, Vasseur E, and Rushen J (2016). Lying times of lactating cows on dairy farms with automatic milking systems and the relation to lameness, leg lesions and body condition score. J. Dairy Sci. 99:551-561

13. Charlton G L, Bouffard V, Gibbons J, Vasseur E, Haley D B, Pellerin D, Rushen J, and de Passillé A M (2016).Invited paper: Can automated measures of lying time help assess lameness and leg lesions on tie-stall dairy farms? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 175:14-22.

14. Solano L, Barkema H, Pajor E, Mason S, LeBlanc S, Zaffino Heyerhoff J, Nash C, Haley D, Pellerin D, Rushen J, de Passillé A M, Vasseur E, and Orsel K (2015). Prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors in Canadian Holstein-Friesian cows housed in freestall barns. J. Dairy Sci. 98:6978–6991

15. Lombardi D, Vasseur E, Berthiaume R, DeVries T J, and Bergeron R (2015). Feeding preferences and voluntary feed intake of dairy cows: effect of conservation and harvest time of birdsfoot trefoil and chicory. J. Dairy Sci. 92:5133-5138

16. Palacio S, Bergeron R, Lachance S, and Vasseur E (2015). The effects of providing portable shade at pasture on dairy cow behavior and physiology. J. Dairy Sci. 98:6085-6093

17. Shepley E, Vasseur E, Bergeron R, Villeneuve A, and Lachance S (2015). Short communication: Birdsfoot trefoil as a preventative treatment for gastrointestinal nematodes in pastured dairy heifers. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 95:533-537

18. Vasseur E, Rushen J, Gibbons J, Pellerin D, Pajor E, Lefebvre D, and de Passillé A M (2015). An advisory tool to help producers improve cow comfort. J. Dairy Sci. 98:1-11.

19. Vasseur E, Rushen J, and A M de Passillé (2014). Short communications: Calves' body temperature following chemical disbudding with sedation: effects of milk allowance and supplemental heat. J. Dairy Sci. 97:5185-90

20. Vasseur E, Gibbons J, Rushen J, de Passillé A M (2014). Development and implementation of a training program to ensure high repeatability of body condition score of dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci.96:4725-4737.

21. Gibbons J, Haley D B, Higginson Cutler J, Nash C, Zaffino J, Pellerin D, Adam S, Fournier A, de Passillé A M, Rushen J, and Vasseur E (2013). Technical Note: Reliability and validity of a method to measure lameness prevalence of cows in tie-stalls. J. Dairy Sci. 97:350-353.

22. Parent J-P, Meunier-Salaun M-C, Vasseur E, and Bergeron R (2012). Stability of social hierarchy in growing female pigs and pregnant sows. Appl. Animal Behaviour Sci. 142:1-10.

23. Vasseur E, A M de Passillé, Haley D, and Rushen J (2012). Sampling cows to assess lying time in tie-stall and free-stall dairy herds J. Dairy Sci. 95:4968-4977.

24. Vasseur E, Pellerin D, de Passillé A M, Lensink J B, Knierim U, C Winckler and Rushen J (2012). Assessing the welfare of dairy calves: outcome-based measures of calf health versus input-based measures of the use of risky management practices. Animal Welfare 21:77-86.

25. Gibbons J, Vasseur E, Rushen J, de Passillé A M (2012). A training program to ensure high repeatability of injury of dairy cows. Invited paper to Animal Welfare 21:379-388.

26. Vasseur E, Rushen J, de Passillé A M, Lefebvre D and Pellerin D (2010). An advisory tool to improve management practices affecting calf and heifer welfare on dairy farms. J. Dairy Sci. 93:4414-4426.

27. Vasseur E, Borderas F, Cue R, Lefebvre D, Pellerin D, Rushen J, Wade K and de Passillé A M (2010). A survey of dairy calf management practices in Canada that impact animal welfare. J. Dairy Sci. 93:1307- 1315.

Book chapters

Vasseur E, Rushen J, De Passillé A M, Lefebvre D, and Pellerin D (in review). Developing On-Farm Assessment Tools To Help Producers Adopt Best Recommended Practices: Improving Calf Welfare In Québec, Best Practices In Performance Measurement and Evaluation Of Knowledge Translation and Transfer: A Sourcebook For Ontario Agricultural Innovation System, Editors: Hambly Odame H, Cushman D, and Gwyn E.

Presentations at scientific meetings

1. Vasseur E, 2016. Optimizing outcome measures of welfare in dairy cattle assessment. Invited presentation to Animal behavior and well-being symposium, ADSA-CSAS-CSAS-WSASAS 2016 Joint Annual Meeting. Salt Lake City, UT July 12-16, 2016.

2. Vasseur E, 2015. Comportement, confort et longévité des bovins laitiers. (Transl. Behaviour, comfort and longevity in dairy cattle). Invited presentation to Rendez-vous scientifique annuel, Op+lait. St-Hyacinte, Canada, November 19, 2015.

3. Vasseur E, 2013. Welfare issues relevant to dairy cattle. Invited presentation to 13th Annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging & Assessment Contest, Guelph, Canada November 23, 2013.

4. Vasseur E, 2013. Development of on-farm assessment tools to improve dairy cattle welfare. Invited presentation to Animal Behavior and Welfare Seminar of The Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW). Guelph, Canada November 21, 2013.

5. Vasseur E, de Passillé A M, Rushen J, Lefebvre D, and Pellerin D, 2011. On-farm intervention to improve management practices affecting dairy calf and heifer welfare: Development of an advisory tool. Keynote talk to 4th Annual Animal Welfare Research Symposium of CCSAW. Guelph, Canada April 27, 2011.

Extension presentations and media

 

Vasseur E, 2016. Radio Interview : ‘Bien dans son assiette : La vache sous le regard des chercheurs’ (Transl. Cows under scrutiny). ICI Radio-Canada/CBC, May 31, 2016 (http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/bien_dans_son_assiette/2014-2015/chronique.asp?idChronique=408247)

Palacio S, Vasseur E, Bergeron R, and Lachance S, 2016. Une ombrière mobile pour améliorer le confort au pâturage (Transl. Mobile shade for improving cow comfort at pasture). Le Producteur de Lait Québécois, Mai 2016, p34-36.

Vasseur E, 2015. Radio Interview: ‘La nature selon Boucar - La vache et la vache à lait.’ (Transl. The Nature seen by Boucar – The cow and the milking cow). ICI Radio-Canada/CBC, July 25, 2015 (http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/la_nature_selon_boucar/2015/).

Bouffard V, Bécotte F, de Passillé A M, Rushen J, Vasseur E, and Pellerin D, 2015. Plus d’espace pour plus de confort! Le Producteur de Lait Québécois, Mai 2015, p42-44.

Vasseur E, and Alfred Campus research team, 2015. Television program: ‘La Semaine Verte’ featuring a story about the calf housing systems project being carried out by MSc student Lisa Wormsbecher. ICI Radio-Canada/CBC, March 14 2015: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/la-semaine-verte/2014-2015/segments/reportage/1359/animaux-bien-etre-paturage-veau-vaches.

Vasseur E, 2012. TV Interview: Chantal Plouffe nous fait découvrir la production laitière biologique. Radio-Canada/CBC, July 26, 2012 (http://www.radio-canada.ca/emissions/changer_d_air/2011-2012/Reportage.asp?idDoc=235024#leplayer).

Vasseur E, Adam S, Rushen J, de Passillé A M, Pellerin D, Lensink J B, Winckler C and Knierim U, 2012. Lessons learned. The Milk Producer, January 2012, p33-35.

Alliez A, and Vasseur E, 2014. Reducing Poverty through Renewable Charcoal-based Agro-forestry Systems. Invited presentation to CIDA’s Canada Fund for Climate Resilience in Africa. Gatineau Canada March 14, 2014.

de Passillé A M, Vasseur E, Gibbons J and Rushen J, 2011. Practical ways to improve animal care on the farm – Dairy stories. Invited presentation to National Farm Animal Care Conference. Ottawa, Canada October 5-6, 2011.

Rushen J, Vasseur E, Weary D M and de Passillé A M, 2010. Animal welfare standards for the dairy industry: background and justification. Invited presentation to 28th Western Canadian Dairy Seminar. Red Deer, Canada March 9-11, 2010 WCDS Advances in Dairy Technology 22:153-161.

Vasseur E, Rushen J, de Passillé A M, Lefebvre D and Pellerin D, 2009. A diagnostic and intervention tool for dairy farms addressing animal comfort and welfare to encourage producers to meet sustainable and progressive standards for calf and heifer management. Invited presentation to First International Animal Law Conference. Montreal, Canada May 21-22, 2009 In: L’animal dans la spirale des besoins de l’humain/The animal, within the sphere of human’s needs. M Lachance, GRIDA (groupe de recherche international en droit animal). pp400.