Fifteen new research projects targeting dairy farm efficiency and sustainability, cow health and welfare, milk quality, and dairy and cardiometabolic health were announced under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 in July 2019. Joint industry and government commitments to the Dairy Research Cluster 3 total $16.5 million, including the contribution from major partners Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Lactanet Canada and Novalait. Moreover, 1,300 individual dairy farms and 10 dairy processors will be investing their time in the proposed research activities by collaborating with the research teams.
A summary of each research project is now available online at dairyresearch.ca for download. The summaries contain the list of researchers working on the project, the amount invested in the project, the objectives, a brief overview, as well as the expected outcomes.
Copies of the summaries will be distributed at upcoming conferences where the Dairy Research Cluster kiosk is installed.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Dr. 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.
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.
The 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).
The first Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Forum under the new Lactanet organization was held in Victoria, B.C. last September 17-18, 2019. Hosted by WestGen, which is celebrating its 75thAnniversary, more than 65 dairy farmers, advisors and other dairy stakeholders took part in the forum. The Dairy Research Cluster had its banners on location and distributed the latest information on Dairy Research Cluster 2 results and new Dairy Research Cluster 3 projects.
Attendees heard from Lactanet Chair Barbara Paquet and CEO Neil Petreny on the vision and actions for the new organization. Several experts spoke on the development of existing and novel traits for dairy cattle improvement, genetic trends in western Canada, the history of artificial insemination in the West and a panel of dairy farmers provided their perspectives on new genetic traits needed for the future.
The 2019 Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Distinction Award was also presented to recipient Bonnie Cooper. As editor of the Holstein Journal, Ms. Cooper was recognized for her excellence in communicating to producers the events, people, animals and developments that have helped shape the Canadian dairy industry over the span of her 45-year career. She was thanked for her work to help make the Canadian Holstein Brand the envy of the world and for communicating breed improvement developments on behalf of Holstein Canada, the Canadian Dairy Network and key industry partners.
Researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (Hamilton, Ontario), led by Dr. Andrew Mente, are part of a landmark 21-country multinational cohort study (the PURE study) of individuals aged 35-70 years old. They 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. In a scientific paper published in November 2018 in the prestigious journal, The Lancet, 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.
Additional research by Dr. Mente associated with the PURE study, and funded in part by Dairy Farmers of Canada, aims to:
Assess the association of dairy product intake, dairy fat content, types of dairy foods, and dietary saturated fatty acids, with blood lipid levels; and,
Investigate the association of dairy product intake, dairy fat content, types of dairy foods, and dietary saturated fatty acids, with obesity (central and overall), diabetes, blood pressure, and hypertension.
Improving the comfort and longevity of dairy cows can improve dairy farm sustainability and profitability. This is the premise of the Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle, launched in 2016 and led by Dr. Elsa Vasseur of McGill University. Preliminary results of multiple studies presented in May 2019 by the scientist and her team show promise for new and innovative approaches to cow comfort and longevity.
Preliminary results to date:
Existing tie-stalls at the Macdonald Campus barn were adjusted to deepen bedding using a bedding guard, increase the volume of straw used in bedding to 3’’ and increase the stall length, which resulted in increased lying times, less hock injuries, thus improving overall cow comfort. The study team cautions, however, that individual barn conditions like ventilation and humidity must be considered and management adjusted for a successful deep-bedded stall system.
Increasing the tie-stall tie length from 1 metre to 1.4 metres allowed for more opportunity for cow movement within a stall. The study team noted that the change in tie length should be done gradually by choosing which cows benefit most from it and assess how the animal gets used to the change in tie length.
Cows are using a variety of resting postures in wider stalls resulting in better cow rest, confirming that current recommendations for stall width must be met at a minimum.
Housing dairy cows in loose pens during the eight-week dry period was beneficial for rest and locomotor recovery. These benefits can be attributed to a combination of factors: fewer obstacles in the environment (by eliminating the stall itself), a larger rest area, and a more comfortable lying area. This study established references to broaden the implementation of dry-off pens.
Measuring the impact of early cases of mastitis and lameness on the productive life of a cow show that a healthy beginning ensures a higher profit lactation. Identifying at risk stages of production and at-risk cows enables farmers to select the best candidates for a next lactation.
Key data is being collected on cost/profit variables farmers can use in their decision-making to develop an interactive herd management tool that will help improve the profitability and longevity of the herd.
Watch the video testimonial from the Roy family of Coaticook, Quebec, as they explain how they used some of the research recommendations to make changes on their farm to improve their cows’ comfort.
Dr. Elsa Vasseur obtained her Ph.D. in Animal Science from Université Laval in 2009, looking at on-farm assessment tools for the welfare of young dairy animals. Following an NSERC Postdoctoral Research 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 research position at the University of Guelph’s Organic Dairy Research Centre on the Alfred Campus, before joining McGill University in January 2016.
Dairy farmers looking for resources and tools associated with the prevention, management, and treatment of mastitis can access a number of information documents and videos available online through the Mastitis Network’s new website at www.mastitisnetwork.org.
A summary of results from the mastitis research program under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) is available on dairyresearch.ca. The two-page summary includes a list of key outcomes and links to mastitis research projects conducted over the last five years. By clicking on the links in the document, you can learn more about the results of the project, knowledge translation and transfer tools developed to date, and the publications to inform and help dairy farmers manage the health of their animals.
Dairy Farmers of Canada congratulates Drs. David Kelton, Stephen LeBlanc, Todd Duffield, Trevor DeVries (University of Guelph), Herman Barkema, and Karin Orsel (University of Calgary), for their achievements in dairy research excellence!
During the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, in June, five Canadian dairy researchers were included in the Journal of Dairy Science’s (JDS) Club 100. The JDS Club 100 is an award given to researchers who authored over 100 publications in the Journal of Dairy Science. The Journal of Dairy Science is a high impact peer-reviewed journal for dairy research publications and read across the globe in the dairy science community.
Dr. Karin Orsel received the Merck Veterinary Award on July 16, 2019, during the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) Annual Convention in Toronto, Ontario. Sponsored by Merck Animal Health, the award is presented to a CVMA member whose work in food animal production practice, clinical research, or basic sciences is judged to have contributed significantly to the advancement of food animal medicine and surgery, including herd health management.
Dairy Farmers of Canada’s 2018 Research Highlights are available online for download on dairyresearch.ca. The report covers research governance, DFC investments and partners, and contains ten research success stories in DFC’s priority research areas.
The success stories provide concrete examples of how investments in research are contributing to innovation and excellence. A list of the story headlines follows:
Dairy farms increased efficiency and productivity and have lowered GHG emissions from milk production
Identifying two new traits to select dairy cattle for high feed efficiency and low methane gas emissions
Research supports progress in animal care under proAction®
Canadian team advances world-class research on best practices and standards for dairy cattle welfare
New pathways to prevent, manage and treat infectious diseases of dairy cattle
Mastitis network transfers knowledge and tools for milk quality and production excellence
Impact of milk products on weight and body composition among children and teens
Cheese helps to stabilize blood sugar levels
Benefits of milk as a source of high-quality protein in the management of lung cancer patients
Beneficial effects of consuming skim milk after exercise compared to a sports drink
Breakdown of 2018 research investments
Every dollar invested in dairy research by DFC is leveraged to add about three more dollars in investments from our partners.
On July 16, 2019, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced an $11.4 million investment in a third Dairy Research Cluster to be led by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC). Joint industry and government commitments to the Dairy Research Cluster 3 total $16.5 million, including the contribution from major partners Lactanet Canada, Novalait, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Investments will be made in 15 research projects targeted to address DFC’s strategic research priorities identified in the National Dairy Research Strategy and will cover dairy farm efficiency and sustainability, cow health and welfare, milk quality, and the health benefits of dairy products consumption.
The Dairy Research Cluster 3 (DRC3) builds on the success of the Dairy Research Cluster 1 and 2 (2010-2018) to stimulate productivity, sustainability, and profitability on farms, and to improve knowledge of the health benefits of milk and dairy products consumption.