DFC Adopts New Knowledge Translation and Transfer Strategy

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On July 17, 2017, the DFC Board of Directors adopted its new National Strategy for Dairy Production Research Knowledge Translation and Transfer (download your copy at DairyResearch.ca). The goals are to facilitate collaboration and coordination for knowledge translation and transfer, maximize the effectiveness of the transfer of research results and aim to increase innovation on farms.

The strategy was adopted following a recommendation made by DFC’s Canadian Dairy Research Council (a DFC Board committee comprised of representatives of provincial dairy organizations and six members from its Board of Directors). The strategy will be in effect immediately.

 

Dairy knowledge at your fingertips: Online reference documents on animal care and environmental best practices to mitigate GHGs

Reference documents on mitigating GHGs from dairy farms:  cropping, nutrition and manure management best practices

Published based on the results of a five-year study led by the University of Guelph’s Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle and her collaborators under the Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Program (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), the contents target recommended management practices that can contribute to GHG reductions. The practices were validated by a group of Canadian scientific experts working in the field of dairy and the environment, including studies financed by DFC under the Dairy Research Cluster. Click on the titles below to download a copy.

For printed copies, contact shelley.crabtree@dairyresearch.ca

Animal care:  lameness, body condition score, and hock, neck and knee injuries

Three easy-to-follow reference documents on lameness, body condition score, and hock, neck and knee injuries were distributed to over 6,000 dairy farmers in the past six months to provide resource material for the proAction animal care validation starting in the fall of 2017. The material was developed with extension, scientific and proAction experts and the outcomes based on scientific findings financed by DFC and its partners under the Dairy Research Cluster. Click on the titles below to download a copy.

For printed copies, contact shelley.crabtree@dairyresearch.ca

Automatic milking systems: how lameness may be affecting milk production in the herd and what you can do about it

feedingpackAutomatic milking systems (AMS) use has increased in the dairy industry in the last few years. Seven percent of all Canadian dairy farms were using some type of AMS in 2015 according to Statistics Canada. But like all new systems, there are benefits and challenges.

A research project investigating lameness in AMS farms (funded by the Dairy Research Cluster 2) led by PhD student Meagan King under the supervision of Dr. Trevor DeVries at the University of Guelph, the team found that one of the challenges of AMS herds was the identification of mildly lame cows. Lameness has an impact on the entire herd, and not just at the cow level. In fact, an increased lameness prevalence of the whole herd reduces overall production.

In the study, 41 robotic herds were surveyed and data about management, barn design, and lameness prevalence was collected. Researchers then looked at risk factors for lameness at the herd and cow-level, as well as factors related to productivity, efficiency, and cow behaviour.

They collected data by visiting 26 farms in Ontario and 15 farms in Alberta. Producers in each farm were asked about feeding, manure, and bedding management. Researchers recorded details regarding barn design and stocking density of cows relative to feed bunk space, lying stall availability, and the number of robots on each farm. They also scored a representative sample of cows at each farm for lameness (gait) to get an accurate estimate of their lameness prevalence, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being sound to 5 being extremely lame).

Results

Increased prevalence of severe lameness is related to reduced milk production per cow and per robot. The researchers found that on average, less than 2% of the cows gait-scored were classified as severely lame (gait score of ≥4 out of 5). However, they found on average 26% of the cows gait-scored were moderately to severely lame (gait score of ≥3 out of 5). The majority of the lame cows they observed had a gait score of 3 out of 5.

In the AMS environments studied, cows with a slight, but noticeable limp, are fetched 2.2 times more, milked 0.3 times less per day, and produce 1.6 kg/day less milk than sound cows. The research also suggests that producers are doing a good job of identifying and treating severe lameness cases in their herd. But, the team found that producers have a harder time identifying the mild to moderate cases of lameness (which are labelled to ‘monitor’ under the proAction animal care assessment program).

Manure management had a significant impact on lameness prevalence on farms: herds that scraped manure from walking alleys more frequently had a lower prevalence of moderate lameness and lower rates of fetching cows. Cleaner floors improve the mobility of cows, which is important when those cows walk to a robot to be milked then back to their stalls or feeding area.

Stocking density affected production and lameness on farms: greater stocking density in lying stalls was related to higher severe lameness prevalence, and led to producers having to fetch more cows. Although a higher stocking density at the robot was associated with increased production per robot, it also reduced milking frequency per cow.

Cows with low body condition and cows of higher parity were more likely to be lame. This is consistent with other research: thin cows also have a thin digital cushion in their hooves, predisposing them to mechanical causes of lameness (i.e. sole ulcers).

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • These findings suggest that producers should manage, monitor and treat lameness early to improve animal care and prevent loss of production in AMS environments, similarly to other barn and stall types. Some ways to achieve this is to get trained to gait score cows and identify those mild cases of lameness and take corrective action. Producers should also be aware of cows’ body condition as thinner cows may have more underlying problems that should be investigated.

  • Producers with AMS should aim to keep floors clean to give cows an appropriate surface to walk on to and from the robot, as well as giving cows enough clean, comfortable, well-bedded resting space to maximize animal comfort, production potential and prevent lameness.

Resources and links

https://www.dairyresearch.ca/cow-comfort.php#self

http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(17)30330-2/abstract

http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(16)30591-4/fulltext

 Meagan King is a PhD candidate in the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph. Emilie Belage is an MSc graduate from the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph and veterinary medicine student at Michigan State University.

DFC Elects New President Pierre Lampron

Unknown.jpegDairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) elected a new President during the organization’s Annual General Meeting in Edmonton on July 18 and 19. Wally Smith had completed the maximum three terms. After a vote by delegates, Pierre Lampron was elected as President, for a two-year term. Additionally, a new Executive Committee has been formed, comprised of David Wiens (Manitoba), Reint-Jan Dykstra (New Brunswick), Ralph Dietrich (Ontario), and Bruno Letendre (Quebec). Congratulations to Pierre Lampron on his election and to members of the new Executive Committee!

Get Your Dairy Research Highlights Online Now!

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A series of six fact sheets are available at DairyResearch.ca that include Dairy Farmers of Canada’s dairy research investments for 2016-2017 and the impact of those investments on the dairy production sector, the health of Canadians and the economy. Read more about our success stories in Dairy genetics and genomics, Dairy cattle health, care and welfare, Sustainable milk production and Human nutrition and health.

 

 

Chair on the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle

Dr. Elsa Vasseur of McGill University has held the Chair on the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle at McGill University for over a year. Novalait has produced a new video providing an overview of the work underway on behalf of Canada’s dairy farmers! Click on the link to watch it now: Dr. Elsa Vasseur – Chair, Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle.

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Chair Investment:  The total partner investment in this research is over $1.6 million for five years  and includes investments from the the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Novalait, McGill University, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Valacta.

Research Themes

The research falls under three major themes. The Cow Comfort and Management theme will address tie-stall systems (given their current prominence) and examine solutions for the transition to freestall systems, for dairy farmers who wish to examine that option, from the point of view of animal comfort, management and potential economic benefits.

The Cow Longevity theme will assess the economic impact of risk factors for cow longevity related to management, housing, cow comfort and health, on the lifetime profit at the individual and herd level, and build decision-support tools to improve overall farm management, profit, and cow welfare and longevity, specifically by investigating i) Lifetime Profitability; ii) Rearing of Animals; and iii) Early Detection Indicators of Longevity.

The Environment and Society theme aims to understand, anticipate and prevent potential conflicts and solutions that would benefit both cow welfare and longevity (e.g., key practices and management systems identified in Research Themes 1 and 2), but that could counterbalance the overall sustainability of the farm and the farming system, by negatively affecting environmental impact and social acceptability.

 

Automatic milking systems: factors affecting health, productivity and welfare

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The adoption of automatic milking systems (AMS) is increasing year after year across Canada. According to Dr. Ed Pajor, Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Calgary, “Canadian dairy producers want to know in advance what to expect if they make the transition to AMS.”

Dr. Pajor and his graduate student, Ms. Christine Tse, conducted a study funded under the Dairy Research Cluster program with producers who had already transitioned to this new system. They surveyed 200 Canadian dairy producers to document their perceptions of the effect of transitioning to AMS on their farm.

The average farm participating in this study had 51 lactating cows per milking robot and two AMS units per dairy farm. Almost all producers surveyed (81%) reported increased milk yield with little change in milk quality after transitioning to AMS. More than half (55%) of producers built a new barn and 47% said they changed housing systems.

For the majority of producers, their cleaning and feeding practices remained unchanged. Most producers perceived that all the information provided by the robots about each animal made it easier to detect lameness or illness in their cows.

Most producers noted lameness either decreased or stayed the same after introducing AMS, and detecting lame cows was facilitated by the automatic detection in AMS. They also noted having AMS allowed more time to observe cows, thus enhancing lameness detection. One potential note of caution is changing the housing system at the same time as transitioning to AMS seemed to lead to more reports of increased lameness. This suggests the change in cow locomotion after switching from tiestall to freestall in tandem with the installation of an AMS has a greater impact on lameness than simply introducing a new milking system.

The vast majority (87%) of producers reported either a decrease or no change in the rate of clinical mastitis, and about two-thirds of producers reported that the conception rate increased with AMS.

Almost all producers agreed that AMS improved their quality of life in terms of more flexibility, less physically-demanding work, and easier employee management.

“Overall, producers reported to us that the transition to AMS met their expectations and increased the profitability of their operation. In addition, they would recommend AMS to other producers,” affirmed Dr. Pajor.

Author:  Shannon L. Tracey, Ph.D., Cross the “T” Consulting