Canadian scientists awarded for research excellence!

This past summer, a number of Canadian researchers were awarded for their contributions in advancing dairy science and the sector. Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) congratulates the following award recipients for their excellent work and recognition!

Chaouki Benchaar
AAFC

Chaouki Benchaar, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) received the Excellence in Nutrition and Meat Sciences Award (Canadian Society of Animal Science). Dr. Benchaar was recognized for his many contributions to the dairy and livestock feed sectors in Canada. He conducts the only methane mitigation research program in Canada for dairy cattle. He is recognized internationally as an authority in the area of using plant-extracts (i.e. essential oils) as rumen modifiers in dairy cow nutrition. Dr. Benchaar led several projects with financial support from DFC, including two Dairy Research Cluster projects (2010-2018) that provided data and evidence on feeding strategies to mitigate methane emissions from dairy cattle. For a summary of his results click here: Mitigation of Enteric Methane Production from Dairy Cows and Impact on Manure Emissions:  Filling Knowledge Gaps

Christiane Girard
AAFC

Christiane Girard, Research Scientist, AAFC, received the Canadian Society of Animal Science Fellowship & the American Feed Industry Association Award (American Dairy Science Association – ADSA). Dr. Girard was recognized for her research on B vitamins and dietary requirements of dairy cows for improved health and reproductive performance. Her studies also aimed to increase the vitamin B12 content of milk and milk products for better human health. Dr. Girard received funding support from DFC for various projects including a Dairy Research Cluster project (2013-2018) that examined the Vitamin B12 content and bioavailability in several dairy products, confirming that dairy products, especially cheddar cheese, are reliable and beneficial sources of B12.

Pierre Lacasse
AAFC

Pierre LacasseResearch Scientist, AAFC, received the Zoetis Physiology Award (ADSA). Dr. Lacasse has made outstanding contributions to the understanding of the biological processes controlling lactation and immune resistance as well as to the development of tools and methods to improve the health, well-being, and longevity of dairy cows. Dr. Lacasse has been an integral part of research projects supported by DFC under the Dairy Research Cluster (2010-present) and the Mastitis Network. For a summary of some of his most recent results from his Dairy Research Cluster project, click here: Dairy Cow Management for the Next Generation.

Benoît Lamarche,
Université Laval

Benoît Lamarche, Professor, Université Laval, received the Khursheed Jeejeebhoy Award for Best Application of Clinical Nutrition Research Findings to Clinical Practice (Canadian Nutrition Society). Dr. Lamarche is one of the most cited researchers in Canada in the field of nutrition and cardiometabolic health. Among others, his lab has produced landmark papers in the area of cardiometabolic risk prediction based on non-traditional, emerging risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. He has published numerous papers describing the impact of the Mediterranean diet and of several dietary fats on cardiometabolic health from clinical as well as a physiological perspective. Dr. Lamarche was the principal investigator of a Dairy Research Cluster 2 project (2013-2018) titled, Integrated Research Program on Dairy, Dairy Fat and Cardiovascular Health. The results provided strong evidence to support the lack of an adverse association between dairy fat consumption, in the form of cheese and butter, and the risk of heart disease.

Michael Steele
University of Guelph

Michael Steele, Professor, University of Guelph, received the ADSA Foundation Scholar Award in Dairy Production. Dr. Steele was recognized for his innovation in, and commitment to, research and teaching in the field of dairy cow and calf management and nutrition. His life-long passion for enhancing the nutrition and health of dairy cattle has led to the establishment of a highly productive research and training program making a notable impact on the Canadian dairy sector.

Dan Weary
University of British Columbia

Dan Weary, Professor, University of British Columbia, received the 2020 United Federation for Animal Welfare Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Animal Welfare Science & the Zinpro Award for Excellence in Dairy Science (ADSA). Dr. Weary is a co-founder of UBC’s Animal Welfare Program (established in 1997) and co-Chair of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Cattle Welfare (a research chair co-financed by DFC since 1997). His research has led to changes in science-based standards for animal welfare and the provision of evidence for the development of best management practices for feeding, housing, pain control and disease detection for dairy cattle in Canada. For a summary of his research outcomes to date under the NSERC Chair, visit: https://nserc.ca/Chairholders-TitulairesDeChaire/Chairholder-Titulaire_eng.asp?pid=159

New pediatric position paper: Cow’s milk important for children’s optimal growth and development

The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition latest Position Paper on plant-based beverages emphasizes that plant-based beverages do not provide a similar nutritional profile as cow’s milk and thus may be harmful to children’s nutritional status, growth and development.

The position paper highlights the important role that cow’s milk plays in young children’s diets in providing key nutrients to promote optimal growth and development. 

The protein that cow’s milk provides to young children is especially important. Both protein quantity and quality are important to consider. For example, a 250 mL serving of almond or rice beverage provides only 2% or 8% of the protein found in cow’s milk, respectively.  The lower quality protein in plant-based beverages further reduces their nutritional value compared to cow’s milk. 

Fortification of plant-based beverages with calcium and vitamins also varies as does the bioavailability of the added nutrients. 

Education is needed to clarify that plant-based beverages are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk. 

A copy of the scientific paper published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition can be accessed here: https://journals.lww.com/jpgn/Fulltext/2020/08000/North_American_Society_for_Pediatric.30.aspx

Upcoming virtual conferences to showcase new and emerging dairy research results

November 3-4:  Symposium sur les bovins laitiers (Quebec)

The Symposium sur les bovins laitiers held by the Centre de référence en agriculture et agroalimentaire du Québec (CRAAQ) is online this year. Speakers will be presenting on the topics of energy and the environment (biomethane project case study, recycled manure bedding, dairy production and GHG emissions reductions), new technologies (feeding in automated milking systems), dairy cattle health and genetics (reproduction, genetic diversity and modern strategies), and how farmers can develop farm strategic visions.

For registration information: Symposium sur les bovins laitiers

November 25-26:  Dairy Research and Innovation Day (Ontario)

Dairy at Guelph is hosting a Dairy Research and Innovation Day online. The event will include pre-recorded presentations that will be posted on November 16th and live panel discussions that will be broadcast on November 25 – 26. The conference topics include the global perspective on dairy production, consumer trends and challenges in the pandemic as well as highlights from select dairy research projects in genetics, use of antimicrobials, precision feeding, calf nutrition and value added dairy products. 

For registration information: DairyatGuelph.ca

March 8-12, 2021:  Western Canadian Dairy Seminar (WCDS-Alberta)

The virtual edition of the WCDS will be held over five days online. Participants will have the the opportunity to hear from speakers on a range of emerging research results like calf health, nutrition, reproduction and genetics. Three virtual farms tours will be featured as well as a producer panel discussion on dairy farm operations.

For registration information: WCDS.ca

2019 Dairy Research Highlights

CovershotHighlights2019Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) 2019 Dairy Research Highlights is now online at DairyResearch.ca. The Highlights are an annual report on DFC’s investments in dairy production and human nutrition and health research and include a list of all research projects in progress, as well as key results from completed and ongoing projects.

Key takeaways – DFC investments in research

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  • DFC invested $1.3 million in dairy production and human nutrition and health research. It leveraged this amount to add another $6.6 million in investments from multiple funding partners. Total investments in research in 2019 at the national level were $7.9 million.
  • 31 research projects are underway in 34 institutions including research centres and universities across Canada.
  • About 2,000 dairy farmers from coast to coast are investing their time as part of several research projects to help drive innovation in the Canadian dairy sector.
  • Close to half of the research investments (49%) target priorities focused on the role of dairy products in human nutrition and health.
  • 26% of investments in research target priorities in animal health and welfare; 21% are directed to farm efficiency and sustainability solutions and another 4% on milk quality.
  • More than 200 communications and knowledge translation and transfer products in both languages were developed and disseminated to targeted user audiences.

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Tracking and reporting on research success

The Highlights also feature 11 success stories from a selection of research projects in dairy production and human nutrition and health. Listed below is a short summary of the stories you can access in the report online, by area of priority identified in the National Dairy Research Strategy. Find out how dairy research is advancing the Canadian dairy sector for the future!

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Dairy Farm Efficiency and Sustainability

  • Genomics of Feed Efficiency: Genetically selecting cows for their feed efficiency and low methane emissions will soon be possible in Canada.
  • New Evidence – Cows in Canada emit less methane: Dairy cows in Canada emit less methane than previously reported in national and international greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reports.
  • New genetic and management tools improve hoof health: A Dairy Research Cluster 2 research project on improving hoof health in Canadian dairy herds resulted in the development of two new tools for farmers to improve their cows’ hoof health.

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Animal Health and Welfare

  • Bedding and stall changes can have a big impact on cow comfort and farm performance: Farmers demonstrate how they modified their tie-stall systems for better performance.

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Milk Composition, Quality and Safety

  • Reducing antibiotic use – National surveillance system for antimicrobial stewardship and resistance: Researchers developed a surveillance program and research platform called the Canadian Dairy Network of Antimicrobial Stewardship and Resistance (CaDNetASR) that allows for the collection of data and measures antimicrobial use (AMU) and its relation to animal health and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
  • Selective dry cow therapy – A strategy for udder health and milk quality: Researchers from the Mastitis Network found that quarter-based selective dry cow therapy is a farm management strategy with the potential to reduce antibiotic use at dry-off by an average of 60%.

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Milk Products and their Components in Human Nutrition and Health

  • Diets containing dairy products can reduce the risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes: New knowledge with Canadian data reported that diets containing dairy products can reduce the risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Vitamin B12 is better absorbed from milk and dairy products: Researchers 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.
  • Dairy product consumption is associated with a lower risk of mortality, cardiovascular events and Type 2 diabetes: A team of researchers found that dairy consumption, especially of whole fat dairy, was associated with a lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease (CVD) events in a diverse multinational population.
  • New evidence – Dairy products are an important part of adolescent girls’ diet for bone health: Research found that 3–4 servings of dairy products per day improved bone health in overweight/obese adolescent girls.

Visit DairyResearch.ca to download your copy of the 2019 Dairy Research Highlights.

 

Environmental Fact Sheets for Farmers

Three fact sheets on best practices to mitigate greenhouse gases in livestock, manure, and crop management were updated and are now available online at DairyResearch.ca. The fact sheets include the key results from Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) Life Cycle Assessment of Milk Production Update.

The fact sheets illustrate how the increased adoption of best practices helped lower the carbon footprint of milk production by 7.3% in five years.

The fact sheets reflect research outcomes from a large-scale project called the Farm-scale Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Strategies in Dairy Livestock-Cropping-Systems funded under AAFC’s Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), which was supported by DFC as well as study results from farm sustainability projects under Dairy Research Cluster 2.

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Dairy product consumption is associated with lower risk of mortality, cardiovascular events and Type 2 diabetes

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In 2019, a team of researchers found dairy consumption, especially of whole fat dairy, was associated with a lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events in a diverse multinational population. The study called PURE is a landmark 21-country multinational cohort study of individuals aged 35-70 years old. It tracked dietary intakes including consumption of milk, yogurt, and cheese of 138,484 individuals over time as well as mortality and total major cardiovascular events (i.e. major CVD, stroke, myocardial infarction). The researchers assessed any associations between total dairy and specific dairy product consumption with mortality and CVD events.

New data from the PURE study and published in a scientific journal in May 2020 assessing dairy intake (total, whole fat and low fat) with a prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) and the incidence of hypertension and type 2 diabetes also found:

  • Higher intake (at least two servings/day compared with zero intake) of total dairy was associated with a lower prevalence of MetS;
  • Higher intake of whole fat dairy consumed alone or consumed jointly with low fat dairy was associated with a lower MetS prevalence. Low fat dairy consumed alone was not associated with MetS;
  • Higher intake of total dairy was associated with a lower incidence of hypertension.
  • With regards to diabetes, higher intake of both whole fat and low fat dairy was associated with a reduced risk.

The PURE study is mainly funded by the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) as well as several government agencies and pharmaceutical companies. This specific study, Dairy consumption and cardiovascular disease in diverse populations (2018-2019), led by Andrew Mente, McMaster University, was also co-funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada (via the Nutrition Research Funding Program) and the National Dairy Council (US).

Pedometers on dairy cattle can point to better fertility

Research using automated activity monitors reveals a correlation between the intensity of estrous expression and pregnancies per insemination

Authors: Augusto M.L. Madureira, Tracy A. Burnett, Janet W. Bauer, Ronaldo L.A. Cerri (University of British Columbia)

Estrous detection in dairy cattle is one of the biggest issues in the dairy industry, with estimated losses at $300 million in the US dairy industry when estrous detection fails¹. These losses are due to prolonged calving intervals and days open, reduced milk production, and increased veterinary costs, among other reasons.

A research team led by Dr. Ronaldo Cerri of the University of British Columbia has been studying how data collected from automated activity monitors (AAM) can be best used to detect estrus behaviour for the best opportunity for pregnancy. Results from a national research project led by Dr. Cerri under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 called, Sustainable solutions to improve estrous detection and reproductive efficiency in dairy cows, showed that prioritizing detection of estrus in a reproductive program can be as effective as some timed artificial insemination programs.

Role of automated activity monitors in detecting estrus

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Augusto Madureira, PhD., placing one of the automated activity monitors on a heifer at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, BC.

While standing to be mounted has been the gold standard for heat detection, the frequency of standing events has been declining over time. Increased physical activity is considered a secondary feature of estrous expression in dairy cattle and nowadays automated activity monitors (AAM) have been used to reliably identify cows in estrus. Accelerometers and pedometers are the most common AAM used in the dairy industry. In general, most AAM follow the same concepts in order to create estrus or health alerts. For example, when using accelerometers, the monitor will use an algorithm to calculate an index of physical activity by combing the data measured by the 3D accelerometer. A rolling average in physical activity is calculated to use as the baseline for each animal, which in turn becomes a reference value to calculate the relative increase or decrease in activity at a given period of the day. In the case of alerts for estrus, the relative increase in physical activity has to reach a threshold that is set for each AAM system.

Increase in activity at estrus and pregnancy per artificial insemination (AI)

The use of automatic activity monitors in one study showed a strong correlation between the relative increase in activity at estrus and pregnancy per artificial insemination. Animals that had a greater intensity of activity at estrus had around 12 percentage points (based on the model of analysis) greater pregnancy per AI, or over 30% improvement in fertility, than animals that had lower activity levels. The study included animals that spontaneously went into estrus. But even when using a timed AI protocol that induced ovulation and consequently induced estrus, there was a similar level of physical activity at estrus (Figure 1). They also found a correlation with pregnancy losses from 31 to 60 days post-AI (Figure 2) and estrous expression. Cows that had a lower increase in physical activity were more likely to have reduced pregnancy per AI and increased pregnancy losses.

Figure 1. Distribution of pregnancy per AI (%) of all insemination events according to a relative increase in activity at timed AI detected by an automated activity monitor

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Figure 2. Distribution of pregnancy losses (%) according to a relative increase in physical activity at timed AI detected by an automated activity monitor

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This study was the first to report an association of intensity activity at estrus with fertility and pregnancy losses. Animals that had greater estrous expression had higher pregnancy per artificial insemination and reduced pregnancy losses. The results provide further evidence that measurements of estrous expression (i.e. on spontaneous estrus, timed AI), such as physical activity, might be a reliable predictor of fertility and could be used as a tool to assist dairy farmers with decision-making for reproduction strategies at the farm level.

The researchers also concluded that future research is needed to better understand and interpret the data from the AAM to optimize breeding decisions.

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¹https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7814743

 

New fact sheet for farmers: Drying off cull dairy cattle at high production and in emergency situations

Farmers can download a new fact sheet called: Drying off cull dairy cattle at high production and in emergency situations. The document was prepared by scientific experts at the Mastitis Network led by Dr. Trevor DeVries (University of Guelph) in collaboration with technical advisors, veterinarians and members of the proAction® Animal Care Technical Committee.

The fact sheet provides guidance to all dairy farmers on proper dry-off procedures for dairy cattle generally and in emergency situations. Proper dry-off procedures for lactating dairy cows are important to maintain the Canadian dairy industry’s high standards for animal welfare. Emergency dry-off procedures may be necessary for situations like a farm accident or a rapid and unforeseen interruption in demand for milk requiring a quick reduction in milk production (i.e. early supply chain disruptions that resulted from COVID-19). In all circumstances, applying the procedures enables farmers to ensure they maintain animal health and welfare and comply with the new revised federal regulations (2020) for dairy cattle transport.

Laminated copies that can be posted in barns will be available soon from the proAction Animal Care representatives in each province.

COVID-19: DFC announces research-related visits on commercial dairy farms may resume if Guidelines respected

DFC informed scientists that research-related visits on commercial farms can resume if the researchers and their teams respect the Guidelines for Conducting On-farm Research Activities and receive full authorization by the commercial farm involved in the project. It is also a requirement that researchers must request and have approval from the farm owners to access the property, and must schedule any visits. The farm’s biosecurity measures must be respected at all times.

The organization has asked that researchers consider postponing on-farm research activities that require more than one person or interaction with farm owners/workers whenever possible until provincial Public Health Authorities relax physical distancing recommendations.

Also, before research activities resume on farms, scientists must refer and adhere to the recommendations/guidelines of their local Public Health Authorities and their research institutions, regarding self-isolating and physical distancing.

There should be NO interprovincial travel where self-isolation is required.

DFC thanks all researchers and farmers involved in research projects for their support and cooperation in respecting the guidelines for the protection and safety of all.

New Research: Water use management and the water footprint in current and future climates

shutterstock_271766828New research supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 is identifying and testing methods to manage water use more efficiently on dairy farms, including drinking water used by dairy cattle. The five-year project led Drs. Andrew VanderZaag (AAFC) and Robert Gordon (University of Windsor) and a team of collaborators from across Canada called “Reducing the water footprint of milk production in current and future climates” has three major objectives:

  • Characterize in-barn water use and identify best management practices to reduce water use and increase efficiency;
  • Assess heat stress in dairy cows and evaluate abatement options in current and future climates; and,
  • Evaluate practical treatment methods for managing silage effluent.

The project builds on the results from a large water use and conservation project completed under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) that measured the water footprint of milk production and identified ways for reducing it. The researchers are taking measurements of water use (in-barn and wastewater) and heat stress indicators on farms in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Dairy barns are being fitted with flow meters and the data collected will be compiled to develop region-specific water use benchmarks. They will incorporate the data into models to evaluate the effectiveness of different management practices to improve water use efficiency by region while factoring in energy use and the costs of different environmental best practices.

Minimizing heat stress to dairy cows is one of the biggest opportunities identified by the researchers to manage water use more efficiently on dairy farms and lower the water footprint. When cows experience heat stress, their feed intake drops, their water intake increases, and milk yield is decreased. These factors contribute to a higher water footprint value, in addition to negatively impact reproduction and cow health, leading to a loss of revenues for farmers.

The frequency and extent of heat stress episodes in Canada are expected to increase with climate change. To address this challenge on farms, the researchers are examining heat stress indicators like the Temperature Humidity Index (THI is a number that shows the combined effect of air temperature and humidity) in different barn types, designs and ventilation systems on test sites across the country. They will be evaluating different strategies to reduce the impact on the animals and water use.

Another important component of this research includes measuring and capturing dairy farm run-off containing a high pollutant load that can be harmful to the environment. The researchers are investigating low-cost treatment systems to collect the nutrient-rich runoff and will be testing new technologies to capture important nutrients like phosphorous from the wastewater.

The results from this national research will help provide science-based evidence to develop best management practices for climate change adaptation, lower the water footprint and improve environmental farm performance.

Quick Project Facts

Research team:

Principal Investigators:  Andrew VanderZaag (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) – Ottawa) and Robert Gordon (University of Windsor)

Co-Investigators: Roland Kroebel (AAFC-Lethbridge), Merrin Macrae (University of Waterloo), Édith Charbonneau (Université Laval), Terra Jamieson (AAFC-Halifax), Ward Smith, Budong Qian (AAFC-Ottawa)

Collaborators: Tom Wright (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs), Sean McGinn, Tim McAllister (AAFC-Lethbridge), Keith Reid (AAFC-Guelph), Ray Desjardins (AAFC-Ottawa), Tim Nelson (Livestock Research Innovation Corporation), John McCabe (Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture)

Total budget: $706,438

Funding partners: Cash contributions provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Eight Canadian dairy farms are targeted for participation in this research project.

Resources on best practices to reduce water consumption on your dairy farm:

DFC Water Quality and Conservation Fact sheets

 

Videos on water use best practices – Dairy Research Cluster Channel on YouTube

Research summaries and links:

Reducing the water footprint of milk production in current and future climates, Dairy Research Cluster 3 (2018-2022)

Water footprint assessment and optimization for Canadian dairy farms, Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018)

Water Use and Conservation on a Free-Stall Dairy Farm, Dairy Research and Extension Consortium of Alberta, Alberta Milk