Dairy Farmers of Canada is pleased to provide financial support in partnership with Novalait, Valacta, University of McGill and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council for a new Industry Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. The total partner investment in this research is over $1.6 million for five years.The research program will be led by NSERC Chairholder, Dr. Elsa Vasseur, McGill University.
The research falls under three major themes:
- Cow comfort and management
- Cow longevity
- Environment and Society
Under the cow comfort and management theme, research will address tie-stall systems (given their current prominence) and examine solutions for the transition to free-stall systems, for dairy farmers who wish to examine that option, all from the point of view of animal comfort and management. Each area will also be assessed in terms of potential economic benefits.
The cow longevity theme will assess the economic impact of risk factors for cow longevity related to management, housing, cow comfort and health, on the lifetime profit at the individual and herd level, and build decision-support tools to improve overall farm management, profit, and cow welfare and longevity, specifically by investigating i) Lifetime Profitability; ii) Rearing of Animals; and iii) Early Detection Indicators of Longevity.
The aim of the research carried out in the Environment and Society theme is to begin to understand, anticipate and prevent potential conflicts and solutions that would benefit both cow welfare and longevity (e.g., key practices and management systems identified in Research Themes 1 and 2), but that could counterbalance the overall sustainability of the farm and the farming system, by negatively affecting environmental impact and social acceptability.
In an interview with a journalist for the McGill Reporter, Vasseur explained the outcomes of the research chair program stating, “Economically speaking, having a cow in the herd longer makes sense. The trick is to present dairy producers with hard evidence that animal welfare is profitable because to this point it is still a hypothesis. A cow that is more comfortable is a more productive cow that stays longer in the herd – but we have to prove it. That is the work of this study, and we intend to put more numbers into it as proof.”