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

Winning video entries – My research in 180 seconds

During the Dairy Research Symposium in February 2018, two students won prizes for their video entries in the student video competition, My research in 180 seconds. Catalina Medrano-Galarza from the University of Guelph won first place and Meagan King, also of the University of Guelph, placed second. Congratulations to both students for their great work!

Management practices and calf health using group housing and automated milk feeders

Lameness and health disorders in robotic milking systems

2018 Dairy Research Symposium: Transferring Results For Action

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On February 9th, 2018 over 100 dairy producers, stakeholders, processers, sector partners, and researchers from across Canada took part in Dairy Farmer of Canada’s (DFC) Dairy Research Symposium at the Château Laurier in Ottawa. The theme of the event was Transferring Results for Action, and showcased some of the results of scientific research from the three priority areas targeted in the Dairy Research Cluster 2:  human nutrition and health, genetics and genomics, and sustainable milk production.

All presentations and resources can be found online at: DairyResearch.ca.

Key Takeaways from the session on Milk Products: The Total Package:

  • Dairy and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes: In the PROMISE study, the majority of dairy-specific fatty acids that we are studying show a beneficial impact on insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion in high risk individuals (Dr. Anthony Hanley, University of Toronto).
  • Dairy foods may account for many positive outcomes associated with its consumption, including improved glucose metabolism and appetite suppression. The consumption of dairy between meals as preferred snacks and at meals with carbohydrate should be encouraged as a means of addressing the public health costs of obesity and diabetes (Dr. Harvey Anderson, University of Toronto).
  • A First Canadian trial provides evidence that milk and milk products are important factors in achievement of bone health during adolescence, especially in females (Dr. Hope Weiler, McGill University).
  • Growing evidence suggests the beneficial impact of milk products on Metabolic syndrome (Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of at least three of the five following medical conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Metabolic syndrome is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes), and cardiometabolic disorders. Dairy intake of Canadians has been lower than recommendations in most age groups since 2004 (based on national survey data) and promotion strategies should be specific, targeting age groups with lower intake and emphasizing role of dairy in health (Dr. Hassan Vatanparast, University of Saskatchewan).
  • Data from epidemiological and clinical studies indicates that consumption of dairy products, in various forms, is either beneficial or neutral with respect to the association with cardiovascular-related clinical outcomes and has no apparent harmful effects on cardiometabolic risk factors (Jean-Phillippe Drouin-Chartier, Université Laval).

Key takeaways from the session Genetics and Genomics – Tools for Dairy Business Improvement:

  • Genomic selection is paying big dividends for the Canadian dairy farmer – more efficient selection for all traits and selection for new traits will affect cost of production at the farm level (health, fertility, cow longevity).
  • In future, improvements will be made using genetics to impact product quality, among others.

Interactive Workshops: 

Three interactive workshops with Canadian experts provided results and resources to improve farm practices with mastitis prevention strategies, better cow comfort and calf care and addressing challenges in transitioning to automatic milking systems (AMS).  Stay tuned to the dairyresearchblog.ca for upcoming posts concerning the outcomes of the workshops and more resources!

Key takeaways from the session on New Science for Dairy Sustainability: 

AAFC scientists presented on water conservation practices on dairy farms, improved genetics and management practices to increase the energy in forages and upcoming changes to protein content in the National Research Council’s (NRC) recommended dairy ration.

  • In-barn water use is 4-7 L per L of milk produced.
  • Conservation practices include recycling all plate-cooler water, improving cleaning protocols and ensuring cow comfort in summer (reduce heat stress); reducing nutrient losses (leaching, runoff, washwater) and energy use also reduces the water footprint.
  • Small changes matter to the dairy sector as a whole – if all farms reduced their in-barn use of water by 1%, 500,000,000 litres of water could be conserved!
  • Increasing the production and utilization of alfalfa-based mixtures is a sustainable strategy to improve on-farm profitability and to reduce the environmental footprint of the Canadian dairy industry.
  • Improved estimations of supply and requirements of proteins and amino acids = better ration formulation that will lead to: increased net farm income and decreased dairy environmental footprint.

More articles on the results generated by the Dairy Research Cluster 2 will be published in the coming months on the DairyResearchBlog.ca to keep transferring knowledge from results for action!

Dairyfarmsplus.ca instructional webinar online: A How-To on using the tool to improve dairy farm sustainability

An instructional webinar is now available on the Dairy Research Cluster You Tube channel at: https://youtu.be/Nbd1hTGFEPk. Access the recorded webinar at any time for information on how to use the DairyFarmsPlus.ca dairy farm sustainability tool to meet your sustainability goals. Recall that the online tool provides an opportunity to:

  1. Learn and Assess your farm’s sustainability with a self-assessment questionnaire and access to more than 110 best management practices in the BMP library;
  2. Measure and Benchmark your environmental footprint and compare it to the provincial and national averages. By estimating your dairy farm’s environmental footprint, you can establish a baseline for monitoring and assessing your sustainability performance from year to year; and,
  3. Take Action – a section to customize your action plan and prioritize your actions based on the tool’s recommendations and your own preferences or expected benefits.

Many dairy producers have already participated in the webinars organized by AGECO, which takes only about 30-40 minutes of your time. Access the tool at www.dairyfarmsplus.ca and review the instruction manual when you need it to make full use of your time online.

When you’re done, provide your suggestions and feedback to improve the tool by filling in the satisfaction survey online at: http://sgiz.mobi/s3/AGECO-DFPLUS.

For information or questions, please contact:

Edouard Clément, AGECO at edouard.clement@groupeageco.ca or Shelley Crabtree at shelley.crabtree@dairyresearch.ca (Dairy Research Cluster).

 

 

 

 

 

A First Step to Improved Hoof Health: Digital Dermatitis

Canada will have its first genetic and genomic evaluations for Digital Dermatitis (DD) in December 2017, which is the first step towards the direct genetic improvement of hoof health in Canadian Holsteins. This success story has resulted from various research initiatives since 2009, culminating to a national project funded under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (led by University of Guelph) and then the development of genomic evaluations for Digital Dermatitis in Holsteins.

Collection of Data from Canadian Farms

b23Lameness is a top animal health and welfare issue for Canadian dairy producers with an important economic impact on farms. One of the objectives of recent research was to provide producers with better management information, including genetic evaluations. Researchers identified and selected the Hoof Supervisor SystemTM for use by hoof trimmers across Canada to collect detailed data related to 19 hoof lesions found in 12 regions on each of the four hoofs. This data collection system includes a flow of data from each hoof trimmer to the national database at CanWest DHI and then to Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).

One of the most important hoof lesions recorded is digital dermatitis, which has an incidence rate of 18% among cows presented to the hoof trimmers and a heritability of 8%. CDN therefore developed a genetic and genomic evaluation system specifically aimed at improving resistance to digital dermatitis in Holsteins. The first evaluation from Digital Dermatitis (DD) was officially published in December 2017 based on 300,000 records collected on 125,000 cows in 1,200 herds by 70 hoof trimmers.

Producers interested in this new trait for herd management and genetic improvement should encourage their hoof trimmer to contribute data to the national data collection system and work with their representative from CanWest DHI or Valacta to have their herd data flow through to CDN.

Genetic Evaluations

CDN introduced a new state-of-the-art methodology to calculate the genetic evaluation for each animal, which is automatically a genomic evaluation for genotyped animals. For sires to receive an official progeny proof for Digital Dermatitis, they must have hoof trimmer data reported for daughters in at least five different herds and a minimum Reliability of 70% after including any genomic information available. Given the volume of data currently available, over 2,500 Holstein sires surpass these requirements.  This means that roughly two-thirds of the Top LPI proven sires will initially have an official progeny proof for Digital Dermatitis. On the other hand, every genotyped sire, both progeny proven or not, will receive a genomic evaluation for this trait and the Reliability for most genomic young bulls in A.I. will exceed 60%. Average Reliability values are higher for progeny proven sires, surpassing 80% for those with an official LPI in Canada and averaging 67% for those with a MACE LPI in Canada. All females will also receive an evaluation for Digital Dermatitis and Reliability levels will generally surpass 60% for genotyped heifers and cows.

As for all functional traits, the average DD proof for sires is set to 100. Sires with a higher Relative Breeding Value (RBV) are expected to have a higher proportion of healthy daughters. On average, sires with a rating of 100 are expected to have 82% of their daughters without any case of digital dermatitis and this percentage increases by 1% for every one point increase in RBV for Digital Dermatitis. With a heritability of 8%, these evaluations provide an opportunity for sire selection to reduce the incidence of digital dermatitis in your herd in conjunction with good herd management practices associated with improved hoof health.

For more information visit the Canadian Dairy Network’s website at: www.cdn.ca.

 

Dairy Research Symposium 2018 – Transferring Results for Action

Join us on Friday, February 9, 2018 at the Château Laurier Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm for the Dairy Research Cluster 2 wrap up conference. New research results will be presented on topics like: Genetics and Genomics: Tools for Dairy Business Improvement, Dairy Products: The Total Package and New Science for Dairy Sustainability.

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Top experts in their fields will present three interactive workshops:

  1. Factors affecting health, productivity and welfare in AMS
  2. Animal care benchmarking and new practices for dairy calf care
  3. The cost of mastitis and emerging strategies for prevention

 

Automated heat detection performs just as well as synch programs and provides fertility intel

Automated heat detection performs just as well as synch programs and provides fertility intel

Authors: Dr. Ronaldo Cerri (University of British Columbia) and Meagan King, (Postdoc, University of Guelph)

Why are automated activity monitors (AAM) becoming more popular on Canadian dairy farms? DFC-funded research has shown that AAM can work just as well as synchronization programs while also predicting which cows will have better fertility.

Neck collars or leg pedometers are currently used on 10% of Canadian dairy farms as their main strategy for reproductive management (>50% of inseminations). Visual heat detection and timed AI are still used more than AAM, but this may change as hormone use is further scrutinized.

Two large field trials in Ontario and BC (funded by the Dairy Research Cluster 2, supervised by Dr. Ronaldo Cerri at the University of British Columbia and students Tracy Burnett, Augusto Madureira, and Liam Polsky) found that reproduction programs using AAM for heat detection are equally efficient as those relying heavily on synchronization protocols.

Breeding cows based on AAM data had similar pregnancy per AI and days open compared with a strict timed AI program (Presynch-Ovsynch). With goals to improve heat detection accuracy and the use of AAM data to make farm-level management decisions, Dr. Cerri’s research group studies how estrus events and intensity are related to ovulation, ovarian/uterine function, fertility, and performance in dairy reproduction programs.

The researchers also found that cows with high intensity heats and large changes in activity (during spontaneous and induced estrus) had greater pregnancy per AI and better fertility, compared to cows with low intensity heats who had more ovulation failure. Moreover, the top 25% highest-producing cows had heats with the lowest intensity and shortest duration. Older cows, those with low body condition, and those experiencing high temperature-humidity indices (above 65) showed less estrus behaviour as well.

In the BC field trial, each individual farm was a big source of variation in the performance of programs based on heat detection, likely because AAM are more prone to individual farm variations compared with established timed AI protocols. This means that the best reproductive program for each farm may differ based on their specific strengths, particularly whether they can better use AAM or injection-schedules properly and consistently. Anovular cows and those with poor leg health can also impair the performance of AAM reproductive programs.

Ultimately, differences in attitudes and preferences among Canadian dairy producers (highlighted in a nationwide survey by José Denis-Robichaud) should be considered when choosing the optimal reproduction management tools. For example, producers have differing views about reproduction hormones in terms of profitability and long-term effects on fertility. However, for farms already reaching 30 to 35% conception rates from breeding at estrus, doing that will still be more profitable than completing full synchronization protocols.