LCA of Milk Production Update

The Canadian Milk Production Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) Update conducted by Groupe AGECO and released in January 2019 assesses several environmental issues in milk production, including carbon footprint, water consumption, and land use. Its findings indicate that the Canadian dairy sector has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world!

The LCA update characterizes the environmental performance of Canadian milk production in 2016 and compares it with data from 2011. In 2012, the first Lifecycle Assessment of Milk Production was conducted and published under the Dairy Research Cluster (2010-2013) and integrated into a comprehensive online tool called Dairy Farms + under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018). Dairy Farms + is available to every Canadian dairy farmer for environmental self-assessment and benchmarking at DairyFarmsPlus.ca.

Informed by science, the LCA update results demonstrate that Canadian dairy farmers adopt practices that benefit the environment. Practices like more crop rotations, improved manure management, reduced tillage and precision agriculture techniques, as well as increased milk production per cow, show continuous improvements in these environmental profiles.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE STUDY

  • Milk produced in Canada has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. A litre produced in Canada emits 0.94 kg CO2 eq, which is about 1/3 the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, compared to the global average. 
  • Carbon footprint, water consumption, and land use associated with milk production have decreased by 7%, 6%, and 11%, respectively, in the past five years.
  • As a result of improvements in animal nutrition, genetics, and housing, milk production per cow increased by 13% since 2011.
  • In 2016, Canadian milk production was responsible for generating only 1.3% of Canada’s total GHG emissions.

 

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More and More Evidence of Dairy’s Role in Prevention of Chronic Diseases

shutterstock_255113662The scientific evidence supporting the role of milk products in the prevention of chronic diseases continues to accumulate.

A list of the science-based articles available on DairyNutrition.ca includes information on Milk Products and Cardiovascular Diseases, Hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, and more.Additionally, recent studies on dairy product consumption and Cardiovascular health and the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes report that:

  • Higher dairy intake is associated with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease. A study published in The Lancet in September 2018 led by Canadian researchers  involved 136,384 participants from 18 countries aged 35-70 years who were followed for a median of 9.1 years. Researchers found that consumption of >2 servings/d of whole-fat dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese) was associated with a 25% reduced risk of mortality and a 32% reduced risk of major cardiovascular disease (compared to intake of < 0.5 servings/d).

  • Consumption of dairy fat may confer protective effects against type 2 diabetes. A 2018 meta-analysis provides the strongest evidence to date for the association of certain fatty acids with reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. The study examined the association of type 2 diabetes with certain fatty acids (as measured in the blood and fat tissue), which are considered objective measures that reflect dairy fat intake.  The different fatty acids were associated with reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes from 19-45%.

For additional information on other topics, visit DairyNutrition.ca.

New Genetic Evaluation Tool for Hoof Health

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A genetic evaluation tool for Hoof Health is now available for the Holstein breed. The tool promotes increased resistance to eight key foot lesions.

The selection for Hoof Health index was made possible through a research project financed under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (a partnership between Dairy Farmers of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN)) that spanned from 2014 to 2017, targeted at improving hoof health in Canadian dairy herds. After only one year since the project’s completion, CDN is able to transfer the research to the field with genetic evaluations for Hoof Health.

Two other key outcomes from the research project were also delivered. The first is the development of a data collection pipeline from hoof trimmers, to Canadian DHI, and then on to CDN, where it is stored in a national database. The second outcome includes the development of an interactive DHI hoof health management report, which will be available to dairy farmers in the coming months.

From Genetic Evaluations for Digital Dermatitis to an Overall Hoof Health Index

Genetic selection for increased resistance to Digital Dermatitis has been possible since December 2017. The new Hoof Health (HH) evaluation will replace Digital Dermatitis as the primary selection tool – a logical transition since Digital Dermatitis is one of the eight lesions that make up the Hoof Health index. The full list of lesions included in Hoof Health are included in Table 1. The frequency of Digital Dermatitis is the highest among the eight lesions, at approximately 17%. Of cows presented to the hoof trimmer, 46% experience at least one hoof lesion in their lifetime.

Table 1: Frequencies, Heritabilities, Correlations and RBV Translation for the Eight Hoof Lesions Included in the Hoof Health index
Lesion Frequency (%) Heritability (%) Correlation with Hoof Health index (%) Expected % increase in Healthy Daughters for each 5 point increase in Hoof Health
Digital Dermatitis 16.9 8 85 4.6
Interdigital Dermatitis   2.6 5 70 0.9
Heel Horn Erosion   2.9 8 76 0.1
Sole Ulcer   8.5 5 74 3.0
Toe Ulcer   1.3 4 3 0.5
White Line Lesion   4.7 4 9 1.4
Sole Hemorrhage   7.4 3 63 0.9
Interdigital Hyperplasia   2.2 7 40 1.1

The heritability of each individual lesion is included in Table 1, ranging from 3% to 8%. The heritability of the overall Hoof Health index is 9%, meaning 9% of the variation for hoof lesions seen in Holsteins can be attributed to genetics. Correlations of the individual lesions with the overall Hoof Health index are also presented in Table 1. Infectious lesions like Digital Dermatitis, Interdigital Dermatitis and Heel Horn Erosion have high correlations with Hoof Health. The correlations between Hoof Health and the non-infectious lesions like Sole Ulcer, Toe Ulcer, White Line Lesion, Sole Hemorrhage and Interdigital Hyperplasia are more variable. Toe Ulcer and White Line Lesion have the lowest correlations with Hoof Health since they each have a small negative genetic correlation with the three infectious hoof lesions.

Overall, the correlation between Hoof Health and both the Lifetime Profit Index and Pro$ is 58%, meaning selection for either national index will result in improvement for Hoof Health.

In the coming months, a separate Relative Breeding Value for each of the eight lesions will appear on the CDN website when selecting the “Health” tab for any Holstein sire.

For a copy of the full article, you can download it here: Genetic Selection for Improved Hoof Health is Now Possible!

Video Blog : Derek Haley on Calf Health

A new video blog (VLOG) is available featuring Dr. Derek Haley of the University of Guelph reporting on his research findings in calf health, welfare and the use of automatic calf feeders. Funded under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018), Dr. Haley and his collaborators investigated the labour requirements, potential welfare benefits for calves and the ability to accelerate performance of pre-weaned calves housed in groups with automated feeders. Watch the VLOG of Derek reporting on his findings on the Dairy Research Cluster YouTube Channel here:

 

Dairy Research Excellence: Canadian dairy scientist awarded prestigious 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize

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Left to right: Norbert Trautmann, President Hans Sigrist Foundation, University of Bern; Marina von Keyserlingk, 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize Winner, University of British Columbia; Rupert Bruckmaier, Head of Veterinary Physiology, University of Bern and Hans Sigrist Prize search committee chair.

University of British Columbia Professor Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk was recognized by the Hans Sigrist Foundation at the University of Bern, Switzerland, with the 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize for her outstanding academic contributions in the field of Sustainably Produced Food of Animal Origin.

“The search committee was unanimous in recognizing that she is truly outstanding when compared to others working in the same field” stated committee chair Professor Rupert Bruckmaier, Head of Veterinary Physiology at the University of Bern.

The foundation awards the Hans Sigrist Prize  with an equivalent of $130,000 CAD research grant to a mid-career academic researcher to recognize research contributions to date and to encourage further outstanding work.

Dr. von Keyserlingk had held a NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Animal Welfare supported by the dairy sector, including Dairy Farmers of Canada, since 2008. Nina is recognized internationally for cutting-edge research on the care and housing of dairy cows and calves. She has been a pioneer in the use of behaviour (including especially automated measures) for the early detection and prediction of disease in animals. This work has focused on the use of changes in feeding and social behaviour as early indicators of disease, and has provided a basis for the rapid growth in new research focused on automated health assessments on farms.

Her work is also among the first in the field of animal welfare to incorporate qualitative methods when addressing animal welfare issues, such as interviews, focus groups and online crowd sourcing tools to understand perspectives of farmers, veterinarians and the public with regards to animal care and use. This work has motivated scientific research better targeted at perceived constraints and illustrates a new trend towards interdisciplinary research to address societal concerns around animal agriculture.

Mastitis MOOCs

A new series of MOOCs on mastitis (MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course) is available free through the Université de Montréal. The series was designed by the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network (CBMQRN) and Université de Montréal as part of the NSERC CREATE in Milk Quality Program. The researchers brought together experts from more than 20 countries to produce the series to initiate graduate students to mastitis science and prepare them for their research programs. Dairy practitioners, teachers and other professionals with a solid scientific background can also enrol to advance their knowledge.

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The first MOOC called, The mammary gland and its response to infectionhas been available since November 2017. It contains basic knowledge on mammary gland anatomy and physiology, immune response, the role of genetics, and pathophysiology. Information can be found at: Mastitis MOOC 1.

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The second MOOC, Mastitis Epidemiology and Diagnostic, presents methods of identification of mastitis infections and methods of diagnostics. Enrolment and information can be accessed at: Mastitis MOOC 2 .

A third MOOC entitled, Mastitis control and milk quality, will be available at a later time.

 

New science on the dairy water footprint

image003Dr. Andrew VanderZaag, a scientist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and his collaborators from the University of Guelph, OMAFRA, the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, and Wilfrid Laurier University, measured water use on farms in Ontario to calculate a water footprint for dairy production and identify practical and economical options to reduce water use for sustainability. The project was part of farmers’ investments targeting sustainable dairy farming in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018).

A water footprint for dairy is a new way of measuring the amount of water used per litre of milk produced. It’s used to benchmark performance in sustainability and help farmers measure the impacts of their actions to improve water conservation and preservation.

Conserving water not only helps improve farm sustainability, it benefits a dairy farm operation by:

  • Saving electricity through less pumping water and heating water for cleaning;
  • Reducing costs for treating water – depending on water quality, this can be a big factor; and,
  • Lowering fuel costs – reducing water in manure storage means less to transport from the storage to the field for application.

Water use

VanderZaag’s team measured water use in different dairy farms (tie-stall, freestall and robotic milking) in Ontario. They found that for milking system cleaning, the average daily water use was:

  • ~75 litres/day/cow [i]for an automatic milk system
  • ~30 litres/day/cow for a tie-stall parlour
  • ~21 litres/day/cow for a free-stall parlour

They also observed that:

  • Robotic milking systems use more water per cow than parlours and tie‐stall milking systems;
  • Drinking water consumption is highly correlated with the maximum air temperature – therefore minimizing heat stress to animals can reduce the water footprint of milk by reducing water demand and increasing milk production;
  • Water leaks around the farm can lead to significant water losses;
  • Water loss can be minimized at drinking fountains by preventing overflow due to faulty float control and poorly levelled tanks;
  • Reusing water can help reduce water consumption, for example, plate‐cooler water can be fully recuperated;
  • In a case study of two farms (one free-stall and one tie-stall), the water footprint was calculated as a range of 4 to 7 litres of water per litre of milk produced.

Water and nutrient losses

VanderZaag and his collaborators measured water and nutrient losses for several years at experimental sites near Ottawa using sophisticated instruments to measure water loss into the air, through tile drains, milkhouse effluent and treatment, and the timing of manure application. They used models based on the measurements to evaluate farm management scenarios for their effect on the water footprint and options to reduce it.

The researchers found that:

  • On a whole‐farm basis, over 99% of all water loss from dairy farming is from crops and pastures, with the remaining loss from cattle intake;
  • Spring application of manure reduces nitrogen leaching compared to fall application;
  • Split applications between planting and side‐dress can further increase nitrogen-efficiency if the application rate is matched to crop requirements;
  • Spring applications (before planting, or split before and after emergence) were beneficial at all nitrogen application rates;
  • Increasing alfalfa in rotation led to less polluted water and nitrate leaching, and less nitrogen-leached per unit of nitrogen‐yield, but overall yield slightly declined.

How to conserve and preserve water – NEW Fact sheets available!

Two new fact sheets produced by Dairy Farmers of Canada in consultation with Dr. VanderZaag are now available for information on efficient water use under the proAction program and help farmers in their efforts for continued sustainability improvements. You can download the fact sheets here: DairyResearch.ca.

 

“If all dairy operations in Canada reduced in-barn water consumption by 1%, about 500 million litres of water would be saved annually,” said Dr. VanderZaag.

Takeaways

  1. Plate-cooler water can be recovered and reused (watch the video of dairy farmer Robin Flewwelling explain his set up for plate-cooler water collection and reuse);image002

  2. Cleaning protocols can be optimized especially with robotic systems to conserve water;

  3. Keeping cows cool in the summer can save water – reducing heat stress is beneficial for the animals and reduces water consumption;

  4. Water loss at drinking fountains can be minimized by preventing overflow due to faulty float control and poorly levelled tanks.

[i]* Standard automatic milking system are not normally set with water conservation as a primary objective (e.g. number of wash cycles, teat prep, flushing, floor and hoof wash).

 

Gut Health: A Journey Inside

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The following are highlights from the 2018 Symposium on Nutrition and Health brought to you by the Registered Dietitians at Dairy Farmers of Canada

Renowned experts at the 2018 Symposium shed light on several hot topics related to gut health, including:

  • how the gut microbiota affects overall health
  • when and how to apply the FODMAP* diet
  • how yogurt can benefit cardiometabolic health
  • strategies to manage lactose intolerance

*FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPs are found naturally in a wide range of foods – fructans including fructooligosaccharides (FOS) (artichoke, garlic, onions, wheat, rye), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) (pulses), lactose (in milk), fructose in excess of glucose (pears, apples and honey), and sugar polyols (stone fruits, some vegetables and artificial sweeteners). Source: www.dairynutrition.ca

Dr. Karen Madsen presented on the gut microbiome and its role in health. Humans have coevolved with a vast array of microorganisms that profoundly influence all facets of our health and wellbeing. Dysbiosis, an altered balance of gut microbiota, is implicated in a wide range of health conditions, including: inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. We now know that diet clearly impacts the makeup of our gut microbiome and dietary changes can substantially alter microbial composition and metabolism.

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

Dr. Jane Muir, one of the developers of the FODMAP diet, highlighted how RDs can apply this diet in practice, ensuring patients follow a 3-step approach and do not restrict important food groups. For example, the initial low FODMAP phase of the diet should only last 2-6 weeks, and this should be followed by a re-introduction phase to identify individual sensitivities and find a good balance between symptom control and expansion of the diet. It is important to re-introduce foods to improve variety, nutritional adequacy, and social inclusion and because some FODMAPs are prebiotics.1

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

Dr. André Marrette outlined the evidence related to yogurt and cardiometabolic health. Strong consistent evidence from multiple meta-analyses shows an inverse association between yogurt consumption and type 2 diabetes risk.Studies also suggest that yogurt consumption is likely to contribute to the maintenance of a healthy weight.Bioactive peptides released during fermentation may explain some of the beneficial effects of yogurt consumption on cardiometabolic health via their role on the gut microbiota.

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

Dr. Susan Barr presented data on the prevalence of Lactose Intolerance in Canada and strategies for its management. Lactose intolerance, whether real or perceived, is a potential health concern for many Canadians. Approximately 16-21 % of adults in Canada perceive themselves to be lactose intolerant.4,5 This can lead to the avoidance of milk products, which can in turn make it harder to meet requirements for calcium and other key nutrients (even with consumption of alternative beverages and supplements). Health authorities advise those who are lactose intolerant to not exclude milk products from their diet. Health professionals can work closely with clients to ensure dairy products are not needlessly avoided using a number of practical strategies to manage lactose intolerance.

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

You can read the full summaries of the presentations or watch the webcast.

REFERENCES

  1. Tuck C and Barrett J. Re-challenging FODMAPs: the low FODMAP diet phase 2. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2017;32:11-15.
  2. Drouin-Charier JP et al. Systematic review of the association between dairy product consumption and risk of cardiovascular-related clinical outcomes. Adv Nutr2016;7:1026-1040.
  3. Fernandez MA et al.Yogurt and cardiometabolic diseases: a critical review of potential mechanisms. Adv Nutr2017;8:812-829.
  4. Barr SI. Perceived lactose intolerance in adult Canadians: a national survey. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2013;38:830-835.
  5. Dairy Farmers of Canada Nutrition Tracking. 2018.

 

Dairy Farmers’ TOP 10 Dairy Cattle Disease and Management Concerns Addressed

Author: Meagan King, University of Guelph

As part of the National Dairy Study’s Needs Assessment (Phase 1), close to 700 dairy farmers completed a survey asking them to identify their top management and disease priorities. The five-year research project was led by Dr. David Kelton at the University of Guelph and his collaborators under the Dairy Research Cluster 2.

The survey resulted in the following priorities identified by Canadian dairy farmers:

Top Management Issues

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Reproductive health
  3. Costs of disease
  4. Cow deaths/longevity
  5. Udder health

Top Disease Issues

  1. Lameness
  2. mastitis
  3. Calf diarrhea
  4. Abortions
  5. Respiratory disease

The Dairy Research Cluster team has compiled resources linked to the top issues in the following interactive poster. Scroll over each priority to discover a pop up window containing sources of information on each issue and how to address it.

National Dairy Study – Resources on milking management, mastitis prevention and lameness

Three VLOGs (video blogs) featuring students responsible for projects and results about milking management, mastitis prevention, lameness, and hock lesions in the National Dairy Study (Dairy Research Cluster 2) are now available on the Dairy Research Cluster’s You Tube channel here:

Assessing Lameness in Dairy Cattle with Stephanie Croyle

Training Assessors:  A key step for the National Dairy Study with Stephanie Croyle

Understanding the Adoption of Best Milking Practices for Udder Health with Emilie Belage