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.