Dairy Farmers of Canada’s dairy research kiosk at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) research kiosk will be set up at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar (WCDS) in Red Deer, Alberta from March 10-13, 2020. With more than 800 participants, most of which are dairy farmers, DFC will be handing out a new fact sheet on best practices for footbath use, as well as summaries of the new Dairy Research Cluster 3 projects.

UnknownMoreover, among the many featured speakers at the WCDS, Nina von Keyserlingk, professor at the University of British Columbia, and one of the NSERC Industrial Research Chairholders on Dairy Cattle Welfare will be speaking on Identifying Gaps in Building Bridges: Working Towards a Sustainable Dairy Industry. DFC was one of the founding investment partners of the Dairy Cattle Welfare Chair at the University of British Columbia when it was established in 1997 and has continued investing in the program since its creation. DFC has renewed its commitment to the program for a new five-year term from 2019-2024.

Nina von Keyserlingk and co-chairholders Dan Weary and David Fraser have developed a world-class program in this area of research, providing scientific evidence for best practices and standards for dairy cattle welfare in Canada and globally. Notably, the results published from their research have served as science-based evidence in the development of animal welfare assessment protocols for DFC’s proAction® Animal Care module.

For a summary of recent findings from the Chair in Dairy Cattle Welfare consult the 2018 Dairy Research Highlights.

 

 

Vitamin B12 is better absorbed from dairy products

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Milk is an excellent source of vitamin B12. A glass of milk (250 mL serving) provides approximately half of the Recommended Daily Intake of this vitamin for an adult.¹ What’s more, the conclusions of research studies, some of which were financed under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018), found that vitamin B12 is much better absorbed when consumed in cow’s milk than when taken in vitamin supplements and that cheddar cheese is one of the best natural sources of vitamin B12, after cow’s milk.

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Christiane Girard, research scientist at the Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre, and her team of collaborators conducted their studies using pigs, which have a very similar digestive system to that of humans. The researchers gave pigs either cow’s milk or vitamin B12 supplements to compare the absorption rates of this vitamin. They found that vitamin B12, which is naturally present in cow’s milk, is absorbed two times better than synthetic vitamin B12.²

The research team also investigated whether vitamin B12 in other types of dairy products is better absorbed than a synthetic supplement is. For comparison purposes, pigs were given a meal of cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, yogurt, tofu (completely free of vitamin B12) or tofu with added synthetic vitamin B12. They compared the levels of vitamin B12 in the pigs’ blood in the following hours and discovered that cheddar cheese wins hands-down over tofu enriched with synthetic vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 from the cheese was two times more bioavailable than the synthetic vitamin B12 in the enriched tofu. Cheddar cheese is, therefore, one of the best natural sources, after cow’s milk, of vitamin B12.³

Source and function of Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin B12 is present only in foods of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and milk products.  It can  also be found in few plant foods that are  fortified with this vitamin.
  • Vitamin B12 is essential for neurological functions and the growth and division of cells, including red blood cells.
  • Vegetarians, especially vegans, older adults, and pregnant women are more at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

{This article contains extracts from a text published online by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada}


¹ https://www.dairynutrition.ca/nutrients-in-milk-products/other-nutrients/milk-an-excellent-source-of-vitamin-b12

² J. Jacques Matte, F. Guay and C. L. Girard, Bioavailability of vitamin B12 in cows’ milk. British Journal of Nutrition 2012; 107, 61-66

³ D. Dalto Bueno, I. Audet, C.L. Girard, J. J. Matte, Bioavailability of Vitamin B12 from Dairy Products Using a Pig Model. Nutrients 2018 Aug 21;10(9). pii: E1134

 

DFC webinar presents the latest science on diet, cardiovascular disease and mortality

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s team of registered dietitians hosted a webinar in November to provide health professionals with the latest scientific evidence on saturated fat and its association with cardiovascular disease outcomes and mortality.

Dr. Andrew Mente of the Population Health Research Institute and Associate Professor at the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (HEI), McMaster University presented on the latest scientific evidence on saturated fat and its association with CVD outcomes and mortality; the PURE study and some of its key findings for saturated fat, carbs and various foods; and, the PURE healthy dietary pattern.

The PURE study is a landmark 21-country multinational cohort study of individuals aged 35-70 years old. Researchers tracked dietary intakes and consumption of milk, yogurt, and cheese of 138,484 individuals over time. They also tracked mortality and total major cardiovascular events (i.e. major CVD, stroke, myocardial infarction) to assess any associations between total dairy and specific dairy product consumption with mortality and CVD events. The team of researchers found dairy consumption, especially of regular fat dairy, was associated with a lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events in a diverse multinational population.

For more information on the PURE study, read the article in the DairyResearchBlog.ca.

 

Celebrating Dairy Research Excellence Before the Holidays!

Leading up to the holiday season, we wish to take this opportunity to recognize the contributions made by Canadian dairy scientists and their teams in 2019. Notably, some researchers working on projects funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada were awarded for their dairy research excellence for advancing scientific findings to improve productivity, sustainability, dairy cattle health and welfare as well as improve knowledge of the health benefits of milk and dairy products.

An article by Drs. Chaouki Benchaar, Édith Charbonneau and Doris Pellerin is selected as one of the Canadian Journal of Animal Science (CJAS) Editors’ Choice papers in 2019

The article “Development of an equation to estimate the enteric methane emissions from Holstein dairy cows in Canada” published in May 2019 by Chaouki Benchaar, Research Scientist, Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre, Édith Charbonneau, Professor, Université Laval, Doris Pellerin, Professor, Université Laval and their co-authors, was selected as one of the CJAS Editors’ Choice papers in December 2019. The Editors’ Choice designation highlights articles of particularly high calibre and topical importance.

The article contains the methods to develop and validate a more precise equation to predict enteric methane emissions from dairy cattle fed typical Canadian diets in Canadian conditions – an outcome from the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) project, Mitigation of enteric methane production from dairy cows and impact on manure emissions: filling knowledge gaps. Their overall findings resulted in:

  • Improved accuracy of the calculation of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s national inventory of enteric methane emissions from Canadian dairy cattle;
  • Improved accuracy of the calculation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) inventory of enteric methane emissions from dairy cattle;
  • Science-based evidence that cows in Canada emit less methane than previously reported by national and international expert organizations measuring countries’ GHG emissions.

An article by Drs. Hassan Vatanparast and Susan Whiting is selected as one of the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism Journal (APNMJ) Editors’ Choice papers in 2019

The article “Type 2 diabetes prevalence among Canadian adults — dietary habits and sociodemographic risk factors” published in August 2019 by Hassan Vatanparast, Professor, and Susan Whiting, Professor Emeritus, University of Saskatchewan and their Ph.D. student Zeinab Hosseini was selected as one of the APNMJ Editors’ Choice papers. The article reports on the results of their study to determine the prevalence of Type 2 diagnosed diabetes, undetected (undiagnosed) Type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes of Canadian adults, and to evaluate whether individuals with diagnosed diabetes have different dietary intakes compared with the other groups, using data from Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycles 1 and 2. This paper is based on data from their Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) project, Association Between Dietary Intakes and Cardiovascular Risk of Canadians using the Canadian Health Measures Survey Cycles 1+2.  Their project provided new knowledge related to diet and important health conditions by producing Canadian data showing diets containing dairy products can reduce the risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

Unknown-4Dr. Pierre Lacasse awarded the Canadian Society of Animal Science (CSAS) Fellowship

The CSAS award was provided to Pierre Lacasse, Research Scientist, Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre, for truly outstanding contributions in the field of animal agriculture. His work has led to the understanding of the biological processes controlling lactation and immune resistance, to the development of tools and methods to improve the health, well-being and longevity of dairy cows and the improvement of milk quality.

Pierre Lacasse has been a contributing scientist in the Mastitis Network for several years, including projects in the three Dairy Research Clusters (Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network;  The Mastitis Network: Continuing the advancement of milk quality in Canada).

He also led a project in the Dairy Research Cluster 2, Dairy Cow Management for the Next Generation, which resulted in:

  • Development of baseline information exploring the biology of lactation persistency;
  • Identification of biomarkers in 12 genes that were significantly associated with lactation persistency, providing information to allow for the selection of cows and bulls with higher lactation persistency; and,
  • Concluded that increasing milking frequency to 3 times a day after peak of lactation helps to maintain high levels of milk production that may enable profitable extended lactation.

T DeVries 2019Dr. Trevor DeVries received the Technical Innovation in Enhancing Production of Safe Affordable Food Award

This Canadian Animal Science Society award recognizes excellence in technical innovation and teaching with an emphasis in the fields of biotechnology, genetics, physiology and animal behaviour. Trevor DeVries is a Professor at the University of Guelph and has produced research findings that led to innovations and practical solutions for improving the nutritional management, housing, and well-being of calves, replacement heifers, and mature lactating dairy cattle. He is currently the principal investigator of the Dairy Research Cluster 3 (2018-2022) project, Optimizing health and production of cows milked in robotic systems and was a collaborating scientist in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) project, Automatic Milking Systems (AMS): Factors Affecting Health, Productivity and Welfare. The researchers’ findings in Cluster 2 provided important, unbiased information to help identify cows at risk of, or experiencing, illness, lameness or poor adaptation to the AMS.

Unknown-5Dr. Stephen LeBlanc Awarded the Web of Science Group’s Highly Cited Researchers List for 2019

For the second year in a row, Stephen LeBlanc, Professor, University of Guelph, was part of the top one per cent of researchers with the most citations in their field. Stephen LeBlanc studies dairy cattle health and performance with a focus on reproductive and metabolic health. His research aims to improve livestock reproduction through disease prevention and treatment by developing reproductive management programs. He is currently collaborating in the Dairy Research Cluster 3 project, Accelerating genetic gain for novel traits in Canadian Holstein cows and was a collaborator in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 project, Sustainable Solutions to Improve Estrous Detection and Reproductive Efficiency in Dairy Cows. The Cluster 2 findings indicated that prioritizing detection of estrus in a reproductive program can be as effective as some current programs of timed artificial insemination programs.

Unknown-6Dr. Sylvie Turgeon Awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Agrocampus Ouest, France

On December 16, 2019, Agrocampus Ouest (Institute for Life, Food and Horticultural Sciences and Landscaping, France) awarded an Honorary Doctorate to Dr Sylvie Turgeon, Professor, Université Laval. The title of Doctor honoris causa is the Institute’s highest distinction and honors foreign individuals who are recognized for their scientific contributions internationally and have developed strong ties with the Institute. Sylvie Turgeon collaborated in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 project, The Effect of Milk Products and Novel Milk Products on Satiety, Food Intake, and Metabolic Control (Glycemia) in Early and Late Adulthood, and is currently a collaborating researcher in the Dairy Research Cluster 3 projects, Understanding the contribution of milk composition and microflora during ripening of cheeses and the Role of dairy products on body weight and metabolic health in families.

These researchers will join others that were awarded in 2019, namely Drs. David Kelton and Todd Duffield (University of Guelph), and Herman Barkema and Karin Orsel (University of Calgary), for their achievements in dairy research excellence! Read the article on their achievements on the DairyResearchBlog.ca.

Sweeter alfalfa to improve milk production and dairy farm sustainability

The dairy cow, as a ruminant, has the unique ability to transform forages that can’t be digested by humans into a high-value nutritious food: milk. A multidisciplinary team of scientists across Canada are working on improving forages, especially alfalfa, to increase the efficiency of milk production and dairy farm sustainability.

“Our overall objective is to increase alfalfa’s nutritive value, yield, and persistence through crop breeding and management”, said Dr. Annie Claessens, a research scientist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Quebec Research and Development Centre and the principal investigator of a new Dairy Research Cluster 3 project called, Increasing the production and utilization of alfalfa forages in Canada. “We are using genetics to identify and select traits in alfalfa populations for greater energy to protein ratios to develop a higher nutritive value in alfalfa-based forages fed to dairy cattle. We are also selecting for higher yield, persistence and disease resistance,” added Dr. Claessens.

Alfalfa plants at different stages of testing. Photo credit: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Quebec Research and Development Centre.

Dr. Claessens, who is also co-owner of the Phylum dairy farm in Quebec, understands the importance of producing quality forage for dairy cows. Feed costs are one of the highest cost items on a dairy farm¹ and forage makes up about 50-60% of the ration fed to dairy cows. While the selection and breeding of forages take time – anywhere from 10 to 20 years to commercialize new cultivars – the return on investment can be considerable². An economic study from the University of Nevada³ on the use of a new alfalfa cultivar with a 5% yield increase was estimated to provide a 43% return on investment, showing the potential economic benefits of forage improvement on dairy farms.

Cows fed with forages with a higher sugar content use nitrogen more efficiently and have higher milk production. Previous research conducted by Dr. Claessens’ team as part of a project funded by the Dairy Research Cluster 2 from 2013-2018 identified 26 genes related to sugar concentration in alfalfa, developed two alfalfa populations with greater sugar concentrations and associated different crop management practices favouring a higher energy to protein ratio.

The team is using the results from the Cluster 2 project to select plant material with superior sugar concentration to accelerate the development of cultivars with this trait and evaluating it under field conditions. The populations are planted on research sites across Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec) to subject them to different weather and soil conditions and then measure yield and persistency.

In the labs, the team of scientists analyze the nutritional value of the plants at different times of harvest, in variable conditions. “We will be testing the populations to identify the crop management practices that achieve an optimal balance between readily fermentable carbohydrates and non-degradable proteins, using different alfalfa-based mixtures of forage. We then examine the effects of the energy to protein ratio on in vitro microbial protein synthesis in the rumen,” said Dr. Gaëtan Tremblay, research scientist and team member at the Quebec Research and Development Centre.

Dairy farmers can expect that when the project is completed, the data and genetic material from alfalfa evaluation trials across Canada will be available to Canadian forage breeders to select experimental populations and potentially commercialize new and improved cultivars. Ultimately, the availability of new alfalfa cultivars will help increase the production of milk from forage and improve protein utilization, thus reducing reliance on concentrates and nitrogen discharges …  significant economic and environmental impacts!

A summary of Dr. Claessens’ new research project is online at dairyresearch.ca. Forage breeding and management for improved yield, resistance, conservation, quality and digestibility is a priority area of research and investment in Dairy Farmers of Canada’s National Dairy Research Strategy.

Quick project facts

  • Project timeline: 2018-2022
  • Budget: $1,124,970
  • Funding partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada
  • Number of students to be trained: 4 graduate students and ˃ 25 undergraduate students

The research team

RESEARCHERS ORGANIZATION ROLES
Principal Investigator (PI)
Annie Claessens AAFC – Quebec Responsible for forage breeding and genetics, coordination of activities among researchers and student training and supervision.
Co-investigators and collaborators
Bill Biligetu (Co-PI) University of Saskatchewan Forage breeding and genetics; student training and supervision.
Patrice Audy, Gilles Bélanger, Annick Bertrand, Julie Lajeunesse, Solen Rocher, Marie-Noëlle Thivierge, Gaëtan Tremblay AAFC – Quebec and Normandin Forage crop molecular genetics; assessment of the nutritive value of feedstuffs; crop physiology and agronomy; forage pathology, physiology and biochemistry; agro-ecosystem modelling and agroclimatology; site testing; student training and supervision.
Shabtai Bittman, Derek Hunt AAFC – Agassiz Nutrient management in farming systems; plant biology; site testing.
Surya Acharya AAFC – Lethbridge Forage breeding.
Édith Charbonneau, Caroline Halde Université Laval Dairy cow forage nutrition; agroecology; student training and supervision.
Ralph Martin University of Guelph Forage agronomy; site testing.
Kathleen Glover, Yousef Papadopoulos AAFC – Kentville Forage agronomy; forage breeding; site testing
Daniel Ouellet AAFC – Sherbrooke Nitrogen metabolism and nutrition of dairy cattle; student training and supervision.
Philippe Seguin McGill University Management, physiology and ecology of field crops; student training and supervision.
Vern Baron AAFC – Lacombe Forage and pasture agronomy and crop physiology.
Mike Schellenberg AAFC – Swift Current Range and forage plant ecology.
Charles Brummer University of California Forage breeding and genetics.
Josef Hakl Czech University Agronomy and forage nutritive value.
Huguette Martel Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec Forage crops and agro-environment.

¹https://www.milk.org/Corporate/pdf/Publications-ODFAPReport.pdf

²https://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/breeding-forage-varieties-13

³Kettle et al. Investing in new varieties of alfalfa: Does-it pay? Fact Sheet 99-31. University of Nevada

Scientists present new research at dairy symposium

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Dairy Farmers of Canada’s dairy research kiosk was at the Symposium sur les bovins laitiers in Drummondville, Quebec, on October 29, 2019 to provide information on the new Dairy Research Cluster 3 projects and distribute fact sheets on footbaths, water use and water quality. More than 500 dairy farmers and professionals took part in the one-day symposium.

Three scientists with research projects funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada under the Dairy Research Cluster and the Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle provided findings from their projects.

Unknown.jpegDr. Benoît Lamarche, researcher and lead of the clinical nutrition investigation unit, Université Laval, gave a talk on the impact of dairy products consumption on health, providing evidence that dairy products consumption does not pose a health problem and that some dairy products could have favourable effects on health (per se, by replacing other foods or by contributing to the intake of certain nutrients) and concluding that current recommendations on low-fat dairy products should be reconsidered. His presentation included research results from his project on dairy products consumption and cardiovascular health conducted under the Dairy Research Cluster 2.

Unknown-2Dr. Annie Claessens, a scientist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre in Quebec, informed delegates on early findings from her project on increasing the production and use of alfalfa forages in Canada. The development of more nutritious and persistent alfalfa cultivars through genetic selection is a long and complex process, but the expected results are promising – increased production of milk from forages, better protein use, reduced reliance on concentrates and fewer nitrogen discharges – significantly positive economic and environmental impacts!

elsa_vasseur_109-1465408337-1575199832460.jpgDr. Elsa Vasseur, Chairholder of the Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle at McGill University, explained how farmers can make stall bases more comfortable. Using bedding keepers to maintain deeper bedding is a practical and feasible solution for tie-stall farms. Dr. Vasseur’s results show this practice increases cow comfort and rest time while protecting cows from bodily injury. She also reported on how the first case of mastitis or lameness in primiparous cows can affect their longevity and profitability.

 

New video available on bedding management to improve animal comfort

A new video produced by Novalait explains how dairy farmers at the Ferme René Dupuis Inc. in Quebec successfully applied research results to improve cow comfort on their farm. Adding a bedding keeper helps farmers maintain deeper bedding to reduce injuries and increase the comfort of their herd. Changes were made following science-based recommendations from the research carried out under the Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. The Chair is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Novalait, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Lactanet.

10 Years of Genomic Selection: What’s Next?

{The following is an extract from an extension article by Brian Van Doormaal, Chief Services Officer, Lactanet}

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It’s been 10 years since the introduction of genomic evaluations in August 2009 and the dairy sector has seen an unprecedented annual rate of increase in the average genetic merit of young bulls entering artificial insemination (A.I.) throughout North America, which now exceeds 120 Lifetime Profit Index (LPI) points and $200 Pro$ per year.  With such a continuous year over year boost in the genetic makeup of genomic young sires offered through A.I. companies, these bulls now represent two-thirds of the total semen market share in Canada.

Figure 1 shows the impact of genomics on the increased rate of genetic progress very clearly. The steady rate of annual gain before genomics, which was 46 LPI points and $79 Pro$ per year, suddenly switched after 2009.  During the past five years, the average rate of genetic gain has increased by 2.2-fold, reaching 102 LPI points and $180 Pro$ annually. The dashed lines since 2009 in Figure 1 reflect the expected genetic progress that would have been achieved for both LPI and Pro$ in Canadian Holsteins if genomics had not been introduced.

Figure 1: Rate of Genetic Progress Achieved in Canadian Holsteins With Genomics

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Genomics provides an unprecedented opportunity to realize selection objectives for lower heritability traits even if they have negative genetic correlations with traits of moderate or higher heritability. Figure 2 shows the impact that genomics has had on genetic progress for individual traits. The first key point to notice is that positive genetic gain is now being realized for all of the major production, conformation and functional traits in addition to Pro$, LPI and its three components. Before genomics, in addition to losing ground for Daughter Fertility, Persistency, Milking Temperament and the Health & Fertility component of LPI, very little genetic progress was being made for other traits including Fat and Protein Deviations, Milking Speed, Daughter Calving Ability and Metabolic Disease Resistance. For all of the other eleven traits in Figure 2, the average rate of genetic gain realized with genomics has increased two-fold.

Figure 2: Genetic Gain Achieved in Canadian Holstein During the Past 5 Years Compared to 5 Years Before the Introduction of Genomics

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What will the future of genomic selection look like?

We are at just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to genomic selection. Given the experience over the past ten years, we can expect to see the following over the next decade:

  • The introduction of a vast array of new traits of economic and social importance, most of which have not yet even been considered by dairy farmers;
  • Increased use of sexed semen, in-vitro fertilization and other advanced reproductive technologies, which also promote the increased use of beef semen to breed dairy cows;
  • Use of DNA genotypes for improved selection strategies balancing genetic gain with maintenance of genetic diversity, including the use of genome-based mating programs;
  • A significant restructuring and consolidation of the A.I. sector, leading to a handful of larger, multi-national breeding companies;
  • Significant value-added benefits from DNA genotyping including automated parentage discovery and recording as well as traceability of dairy animals and food products.

It’s time to register for Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Nutrition and Health Symposium!

2019

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s nutrition and health symposium will focus on Sustainable Diets.

Attendees will have the opportunity to listen to internationally recognized speakers on this topic from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, McGill University, the University of California, Davis and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The symposium will provide participants:

  • A better understanding of the definitions and goals for sustainable diets;
  • An expanded understanding of the impact of animal agriculture on environmental sustainability, particularly as it relates to Canadian food production; and,
  • Provide insights on the nutritional implications of plant-based or ‘’flexitarian” diets as proposed by EAT-Lancet.

To view the program and register:

–  Montreal, on October 29, 2019 – also available via webcast in French
–  Edmonton, on October 30, 2019 – also available via webcast in English

For more information, visit www.dairynutrition.ca.

Dairy Research Cluster 3: FEATURED RESEARCH PROJECT

In the coming months, we will be featuring one of the 15 new Cluster 3 research projects in each blog, providing our followers the opportunity to learn more about the research underway, how it’s associated to dairy farmers’ research priorities, why it’s important for dairy innovation and provide more information about the scientists involved in the projects.

We hope you enjoy the read!

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Optimizing health and production of cows milked in robotic systems

New research started in 2018 under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 is investigating ways to maximize the efficiency of robotic milking systems and optimize cow health within those systems. The project, led by Dr. Trevor DeVries of the University of Guelph, is very timely – about 11% of farms enrolled in a milk recording program in Canada use robots and the adoption of this technology continues to increase.

The scope of the new research is impressive. This is the first study of its kind to investigate robotic milking technologies on farms across all provinces, using data collected in collaboration with Lactanet. The research team includes top Canadian experts in the fields of dairy cattle health, farm management and nutrition, spanning across Canada: Drs. Greg Penner and Tim Mutsvangwa (University of Saskatchewan), Drs. Karin Orsel and Ed Pajor (University of Calgary), Dr. Todd Duffield (University of Guelph) and Richard Cantin, Débora Santschi and René Lacroix (Lactanet).

The research team will be identifying cow and herd-level factors that influence milk production, cow health and the efficiency of robot use in a large-scale sample of dairy farms. The information will be used to identify best management practices to help farmers using robotic systems produce milk more efficiently and maintain excellent dairy cow health, with a specific focus on health in early lactation and feeding practices in robotic barns, based on barn design and layout, for all stages of lactation.

“Considering the number of farms using robotic technology and the potential for growth, there are still gaps in our knowledge on the best strategies farmers can use to address some of the challenges we identified in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 research. This new research will build on those results,” said Dr. DeVries.

In the Dairy Research Cluster 2 project on automated milking systems, the researchers demonstrated that lower milk production and issues with cow health, especially in early lactation, impacted the profitability of adopting robotic systems. Lameness, for example, was one of the primary factors identified with an overall negative impact on milk yield per cow and per robot. Clinically lame cows (gait score of 3 out of 5 or greater) were 2 times more likely to be fetched and produced 1.6 kg of milk less per day than healthy cows and milked 0.3 fewer times per day. Severely lame cows (gait score of 4 out of 5 or greater) were most likely to turn into chronic fetch cows.

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Watch the video about some of the findings from the Dairy Research Cluster 2 project prepared by Meagan King.

Over a 12-month period, this group of researchers will be collecting data on housing, feeding and management by farm and by robotic system, and extract milk recording data for each herd. The data will be analyzed to assess cow and herd level impacts on milk production, health and robot use.

“The extent of the dataset collected by farm and by region will allow us to assess robotic system performance. We will then be able to make some associations or differentiations and develop benchmarks dairy farmers can use if they are already milking with robots or are thinking about installing the technology on their farm. We look forward to developing some very practical independent information for Canadian dairy farmers that is science-based and supports their application of the technology in the most efficient way,” concluded DeVries.

Quick project facts

  • Project timeline: 2018-2022
  • Budget: $300,000
  • Funding partners: AAFC, DFC, with an in-kind contribution from Lactanet
  • Number of farms involved: 200+
  • Number of students to be trained: 8+

 The research team

T DeVries 2019

Dr. Trevor DeVries (Professor and Canada Research Chair in Dairy Cattle Behaviour and Welfare) is the Principal Investigator, project coordinator, and the primary advisor for the Ph.D. student and undergraduate summer research assistants at the University of Guelph. Dr. DeVries will coordinate all the data collection, particularly the data collected in Ontario and Quebec.

 

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Dr. Todd Duffield (Professor, Ontario Veterinary College) is a Collaborator and an advisory committee member to the Ph.D. student at the University of Guelph, and is assisting in project design, analysis, and interpretation.

 

Unknown-2Unknown-3Dr. Gregory Penner (Associate Professor in Nutritional Physiology) and Dr. Timothy Mutsvangwa (Professor of Ruminant Nutrition and Metabolism), University of Saskatchewan, are providing expertise in dairy cattle nutritional physiology. As Co-Investigator, Dr. Penner is responsible for advising the undergraduate summer research assistants who will collect data on farms in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Both researchers will contribute to data interpretation and manuscript writing.

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Dr. Karin Orsel (Associate Professor Veterinary Epidemiology, University of Calgary) as Co-Investigator, is responsible for advising the undergraduate summer research assistants who will collect data on farms in Alberta. Drs. Orsel and Dr. Pajor (Collaborator) will contribute to data interpretation and manuscript writing.

 

UnknownThe project involves key collaborations from Lactanet:  Richard Cantin, Débora Santschi and René Lacroix. They will provide assistance in the identification and recruitment of herds, expertise in data management, as well as provide access to their milk recording data (subject to producer agreement and consent to participate in the study).