Have Your Say in Canadian Dairy Research on February 4-5, 2015

The Dairy Research Cluster kiosk will be onsite at Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Policy Conference on February 4-5, 2015 in Ottawa. We invite you to stop by and hear about our latest Innovation Contest set to launch online on February 16th where you can Have Your Say in Canadian Dairy Research! Dairy farmers’ research questions are being collected across Canada during 2015 to help set dairy research priorities beyond 2017.

  • Do you have a dairy farm issue you want solved?
  • Do you have a research question for Canadian dairy scientists?
  • What is the most important issue in the Canadian dairy industry that needs to be solved by research within the next 10 years?

Stop by our booth on February 4-5 in Ottawa and we will record your questions live! Your question will be entered into a draw* to cover the costs of registration, for a dairy research and extension conference nearest you!

*Only dairy farmers’ questions are eligible for the draw.

Lead the herd and help chart the course for innovation in dairy.

How to produce and use sweet forages – Free Webinar March 4th

How to produce and use sweet forages – Free Webinar March 4th

On Wednesday, March 4th, AAFC, the BCRC and the Dairy Research Cluster will hold a one-hour webinar on the Production and Use of Sweet Forages with three Canadian experts. The webinar will be held from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST and there is no cost to participating. You can register online now.

The March webinar is in English only and a French version is set for April 29th (registration details to follow in early March).

 What is the webinar about?

Sugars, also known as non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), are an important source of readily available energy in forages. Increasing forage NSC has been shown to improve feed intake, milk yield, and nitrogen use efficiency in dairy cows and other ruminants. Scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Université Laval carried out various studies looking at increasing NSC in forages, including taking advantage of diurnal variations in NSC. Join this webinar to learn how to produce and use high NSC forages.


Gaëtan Tremblay, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist in nutritive value of feedstuffs at the Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Québec City since 1987. His research activities mainly focus on improving the nutritive value of ruminant feed to maximize the use of forages and reduce production costs and environmental impacts.

Robert Berthiaume obtained his B.Sc. in Agricultural Economics from Laval University, his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Guelph.  From 1989 to 2012, Robert was a member of the nutrition team at the Dairy & Swine research centre (AAC) in Lennoxville.  In July 2012, Robert joined the R&D department at Valacta as dairy production expert in forage systems.

Dr. Gilles Bélanger is Research Scientist in crop agronomy and physiology at the Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Québec City. His research activities focus on the growth and nutritive value of forage crops, nutrient management, winter survival of perennial crops, impact of climate change, and biomass production from perennial crops. Dr. Bélanger is a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Agronomy and an adjunct professor at Laval University.

What is the Impact of Removing Chocolate Milk from Schools?

Increasing childhood obesity rates have made food intake at school a focal point for policy makers, school administrators, parents, and the media. Flavoured milks are being limited or even eliminated from some schools in Canada and the U.S. … with unintended consequences that could critically hinder optimal nutrient intakes.


  • Chocolate milk can improve diet quality of children and adolescents with no adverse impact on weight.
  • Removing chocolate milk from schools negatively affects overall milk and key nutrient intakes.
  • The nutrient contribution of milk is very difficult to replace with other foods.

Full article can be found here.

Listen to Dr. Carol Henry, Associate Professor, Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Saskatchewan explain her research on the Dairy Research Cluster Channel

Continue reading “What is the Impact of Removing Chocolate Milk from Schools?”

Managing and feeding dairy calves: Farmers’ input needed!


Researchers at the University of Guelph want to find out more about the ways that dairy farmers feed and manage their young dairy calves. Whether they feed calves by hand or use an automated milk feeding system, dairy farmers across Canada are encouraged to fill out a brief online survey.

The survey will gather information about farmers’ experiences feeding and managing their young calves and help researchers identify reasons why some producers have switched to automated feeding and why others have kept on using manual feeding methods. The survey also will help identify the perceived advantages and challenges both groups of farmers face with these two feeding systems, and document some of the key management practices that characterize both types of systems.

The information from producers will help researchers identify specific areas where more research is needed to help strike a balance between the use of available technology and the implementation of good management practices to optimize the performance and well-being of calves. Future on-farm research with automated milk feeders will help identify and refine best management practices to facilitate the successful integration of this equipment on farms.

The survey will be online at the web site address described above.  The first 10 people to complete the survey will receive a Tim Horton’s gift card and all respondents who complete the survey will be entered into a draw to win a $250 cash prize.

The project “Innovative feeding and best management practices for the very young dairy calf to improve calf performance, welfare, and future productivity” is funded under the Dairy Research Cluster Program.

Update on Proofs for Identical Twin Sires

Identical twins have identical genotypes. Pedigree-based genetic evaluation systems treat identical animals as full-sibs. This strategy was known to be suboptimal since it assumes that identical twins only have 50% of their genes in common, when in reality they have the exact same DNA and identical genotypes. For purposes of genetic evaluations, identical twins are expected to transmit the exact same genetic potential to their progeny. However, before genomics it was very difficult to prove that animals were genetically identical.

Since the identification of genetically identical animals was no longer an issue in the genomic era, Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) implemented an improved methodology in 2011 for handling proofs of identical males. As long as they were born after April 1, 2006, any pair of sires identified as having identical DNA via genotyping received the same genetic and genomic evaluations. Identical sires that were already progeny proven as of December 2010 continued to be evaluated as if they were regular full brothers.

Identical sires are treated as one individual animal by pooling their daughter information and calculating one domestic genetic evaluation. For example, if one sire in the pair has 300 daughters and its identical brother has 200 daughters, both sires receive the same genetic evaluation based on the combined group of 500 daughters. Pooling daughter information increases the reliability of their combined proof, compared to treating them as full-sibs in the past. The same proof for identical sires is sent to Interbull for the calculation of MACE evaluations on other country scales. Depending on how the other country, say United States for example, handles the MACE evaluation from Interbull in addition to any daughter data that either brother may have in that country, identical twins may receive differing official evaluations in other countries.

Case Study – Jordan and Jerrick

Identical twins Gillette Jordan and Gillette Jerrick were first progeny proven in August 2010 and ranked #1 and #7 LPI, respectively, including genomics. As a result, they were both returned to active service and widely used across the country, although Jordan was also previously used as a high-ranking genomic young bull. Since these bulls were born prior to April 1, 2006, their proofs remained separate. Now, both have thousands of daughters in lactation and type classified. Although over 80% of their daughter production data is still from first lactation, these bulls serve as an excellent example of how proofs of identical sires evolve over time (Figure 1).

When first proven in August 2010, the bulls had an LPI difference of 278 points based solely on their traditional proof without genomics. Over the following months and years, their traditional proofs fluctuated to some degree, both upwards and downwards, with the largest difference between them exceeding 400 LPI points. As of April 2013, the variation in the LPI scale was halved and the average LPI was increased by 1700 points so the differences between Jordan and Jerrick for LPI and its components were reduced as expected. Once both bulls reached over 1,700 production daughters in May 2014, their LPI difference before including genomics has consistently been less than 100 points.


Table 1 shows the difference in traditional proofs without genomics between the identical brothers as of December 2014. Jordan is currently 80 LPI points higher than Jerrick, mainly because his production proof still exceeds that of Jerrick’s, but by far less than it did during the first 6 months after these bulls were officially progeny proven. In terms of type traits, the brothers now only differ from each other by one point or less. Being that Health and Fertility traits are generally low heritability, more daughter data in first and subsequent lactations is required in order to reach high levels of reliability. For this reason, more difference between these bulls still exists for traits like Herd Life, Daughter Calving Ability, Temperament, Milking Speed and Mastitis Resistance. It is expected that as the reliability of their proofs for functional traits increases due to the accumulation of daughter information, their evaluations will continue to become more similar over time, as has been the case with Production and Conformation traits.

Table 1: Proof Differences as of December 2014: Jordan versus Jerrick



The current CDN policy for calculating proofs for genetically identical brothers still raises some controversy and questions from breeders. Based on the observed evolution of traditional proofs for Jordan and Jerrick, excluding genomics, there is no indication that the policy should be altered. Since both bulls have the same genotype, the inclusion of genomic information for official proofs reduces the observed differences in published evaluations even further. Based on their semen usage in Canada, Gillette Stanleycup and Gillette Windhammer, and possibly Gillette Wildthing and Gillette Willrock, are two other pairs of identical brothers that may serve as case studies in the future but it will take a few more years before they have thousands of daughters with sufficient data for first and subsequent lactations.

Authors: Lynsay Beavers, Industry Liaison Coordinator, CDN, Brian Van Doormaal, General Manager, CDN

Date: December 2014

Can dairy product consumption lower blood pressure?

Can dairy product consumption lower blood pressure?

Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is high. If left untreated, this condition can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The prevalence of high blood pressure has been steadily increasing worldwide. In Canada, over six million Canadian adults[1] – that’s one in five – now have the condition.

The good news is that diet is a key factor in the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Healthy eating patterns, which include dairy products, have been shown to have beneficial effects on high blood pressure.

Many studies have shown that eating dairy products can help lower the risk of high blood pressure in healthy individuals. However, few studies have looked at the impact of dairy consumption on people diagnosed with mild to moderate hypertension.

The authors of this study decided to investigate how dairy product consumption could affect blood pressure in men and women with mild to moderate hypertension. They enlisted the help of 89 men and women, who were asked to eat three servings per day of dairy products (milk, cheddar cheese and yogurt) for a four-week period.

Results showed that eating three daily servings of dairy products led to a significant reduction in blood pressure in men, but not in women. According to the researchers, this is consistent with other findings that suggest men and women respond differently to blood pressure regulation.

The study also showed that consuming three daily servings of dairy products significantly improved endothelial function in both men and women. “Endothelial” refers to the cells that form the lining of blood vessels. When this inner lining is impaired, it can increase the risk of coronary artery disease and is also linked to high blood pressure.

Authors: Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, Iris Gigleux, André J Tremblay, Luc Poirier, Benoît Lamarche, and Patrick Couture

Journal: Nutrition Journal, 2014, 13: 83

[1] Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada website