First National Dairy Study about to get underway

First National Dairy Study about to get underway

By: Dr. David Kelton, Professor, Population Medicine, University of Guelph

Starting in January, 2015, the first National Dairy Study will be conducted across Canada. This is a research initiative funded by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada the Canadian Dairy Network and the Canadian Dairy Commission through the Dairy Research Cluster 2 Program. The study is modeled after the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) studies that occur periodically in the United States. The goal is to gather health and management information from a random sample of dairy farms across the country in order to describe and benchmark the current state of the Canadian dairy industry. 

In the spring of 2014, various dairy stakeholders were recruited to prioritize the topics for the upcoming Canadian study through an on-line questionnaire. Response was overwhelming with over 1,000 respondents. Animal welfare was the number one management issue identified, while lameness was the number one health issue. Other management issues were: biosecurity, costs of disease, antibiotic use, food safety, reproductive and udder health. Top health issues included: calf diarrhea, respiratory disease, bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), enzootic bovine leukosis (EBL)/bovine leukemia virus (BLV), Johne’s disease, E. coli (food safety), and S. aureus mastitis. These issues have formed the framework for the upcoming study.

The study will be conducted in two phases. Phase I will get underway in early 2015, and will consist of a questionnaire administered either on-line or via telephone to a randomly selected number of producers. The selection process will ensure all provinces will be proportionally represented and will include farms that are and are not currently registered with a milk recording agency. This phase will help establish national benchmarks for production and dairy farm management. In the second phase of the study a subset of farms will be visited during the summer of 2015 by regional teams of university students who will collect biological samples from animals and data about specific management and disease issues.

The results from this collaborative, proactive initiative will benefit producers in many ways. Participation in the first phase will generate data that will allow them to compare their operation to local, regional, and national benchmarks. Participation in the farm visit will provide them with free test results for selected diseases of importance in Canada. In addition, the results will help guide future research and the development activities for agriculturally based companies, educators and researchers at universities. Lastly, it will help to reinforce the strong reputation for food safety and sustainability that the Canadian dairy industry has among consumers.

For a summary of the study, visit

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