Resources for dairy farmers: Fact sheets to improve dry-off procedures

  1. FACT SHEET: Recommended protocol for the administration of an internal teat sealant for dairy cows

A collaborative project between the Mastitis Network and Dairy Farmers of Canada, this new fact sheet available in English, French and Spanish contains best practices and visual step-by-step procedures for the administration of an internal teat sealant at dry-off. A growing number of farms are using teat sealants as a preventative measure for better udder health, as part of a broader strategy to reduce antimicrobial use on dairy farms. 

To download a copy of the fact sheet available at no cost, visit: MastitisNetwork.org.

A series of additional fact sheets containing best practices for testing, treatment and prevention of mastitis on dairy farms is available on the Mastitis Network’s website at MastitisNetwork.org.

2. FACT SHEET:  Drying off cull dairy cattle at high production and in emergency situations

This fact sheet published in August 2020 in English, French and Spanish contains dry-off procedures for lactating dairy cows in accordance with Canada’s high standards for animal welfare while adhering to the federal transport regulations (2020). New transport regulations require that lactating animals should not be transported unless they are milked at intervals sufficient to prevent udder engorgement.[i]

A team of experts from the Mastitis Network, led by Dr. Trevor DeVries (University of Guelph), developed the fact sheet’s recommendations on the basis of recent scientific evidence for best practices for animal health and welfare prior to transporting an animal leaving the farm. The best practices address high and low producing dairy cows, as well as the steps to take when the animal’s departure date from the farm is known or unknown, such as in an emergency situation.

To download a copy of the fact sheet at no cost, visit: DairyResearch.ca.


[i] Government of Canada, https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/c.r.c.,_c._296/FullText.html

NEW RESEARCH: Extending cow longevity on dairy farms by improving calf management practices in the first year of life

Dairy cow longevity has a significant impact on the sustainability of dairy production considering that an animal’s profitability in milk production often begins in its 3rd lactation. Good management in the early life of a calf appears to have an effect on the performance and future productivity of the animal[i], but few studies exist on the long term influence of management practices and feeding strategies in this period.

A project under the Dairy Research Cluster 3, led by Greg Keefe and J Trenton McClure (University of Prince Edward Island), in collaboration with Elsa Vasseur (McGill University) and Débora Santschi (Lactanet), is investigating the associations between calf welfare and management, and actual cow productivity and longevity compared to its projected genetic potential. 

“We aim to identify best management practices that can be adopted to help calves reach their full genetic potential,” said Greg Keefe. “This work, along with Elsa Vasseur’s research (NSERC/Novalait/Dairy Farmers of Canada/Lactanet Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle), will support longer term productive lives for Canadian dairy cows,” added Keefe.  

The team will be collecting data from over 1,500 farms in Quebec and the Maritimes on calf management practices including colostrum management practices, pre-weaning nutrition (growth) and calf health events (morbidity and mortality). The researchers will also use data already collected on approximately 3,500 calves in New Brunswick using a comprehensive calf diary to gather information about the animals. They will include factors like health and immunity, nutrition, weight gain and disease incidents documented over time. Data for milk production (305-day production for completed lactation, total lifetime production to end of study), date culled and reasons for cows leaving the herd will be extracted yearly from the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) database. Associations between the data collected in early life and adult cow productivity and longevity will be evaluated and calculated.

A subset of these animals that had genetic testing as calves will be connected with management, nutrition and health data to study the impact of early life management on achieving calf genetic potential as measured by the animal’s productivity and longevity. 

“We are working with a great team to identify management practices and health events in calfhood to help farmers get the most out of the genetic potential of their animals,” said J Trenton McClure. “Lactanet is administering the calf management survey to producers. We also are seeking producers that genotype a portion of their calves to help with this research project by completing an additional short survey on veterinary practices and calf health events on their farm,” concluded McClure.


Dairy Farmers Needed for this Research Survey!

Dairy Farmers from Quebec and New Brunswick are invited to participate to this study! 

If you choose to participate, please answer six short questions by clicking on the link below to see if your herd qualifies for the study. If you qualify, the researchers will contact you with a short 15-minute follow up questionnaire relating to health management in your calves. The researchers will also ask for your permission to access your production records through Lactanet on the animals you have genetically tested. The records requested will be as follows: milk production, fertility, survivability, health parameters, and body condition. 

After you complete the 15-minute questionnaire, the researchers will provide you with a $10 gift card of your choice (Tim Horton’s or Canadian Tire) to thank you for your time. If you have any questions before making your decision, do not hesitate to contact in English, Elizah McFarland (edmcfarland@upei.ca) 902-566-0969, Dr. J.T McClure (jmcclure@upei.ca) 902-566-0717 or Dr. Greg Keefe (gkeefe@upei.ca) and in French, Cynthia Mitchell (camitchell@upei.ca) 902-566-6081. 

Thank you for considering the request to participate!

English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TMFBG32


Project Overview

  • Principal Investigators: Greg Keefe and J Trenton McClure (University of Prince Edward Island)
  • Co-Investigators: Elsa Vasseur (McGill University), Luke Heider (University of Prince Edward Island) and Débora Santschi (Lactanet) 
  • Duration: 2018-2022
  • Total budget: $269,100 

Download a summary of the project here: DairyResearch.ca.


[i]Lohakare et al., 2012. Asian-Austrasas J. Anim. Sci. 25(9): 1338; Dingwell et al., 2006. J. Dairy Sci. 89(10): 3992 

NEW RESEARCH: Identifying best management practices for high quality silage production

Weather volatility and climate change have made cropping and harvest even more challenging for dairy farmers, potentially impacting the quality and costs of livestock feed for silage. With feed costs among the highest expenses on a dairy farm, new research under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 aims to help farmers improve their production practices to make high-quality silage at lower costs with tailored management plans for different regions. This Cluster project addresses a key strategic priority in DFC’s National Dairy Research Strategy targeting forage breeding and management for improved yield, resistance, conservation, quality and digestibility.

Drs. Nancy McLean (Dalhousie University) and Linda Jewell (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) – St. John’s, Newfoundland) are leading the research project with a team of researchers across Canada. It is one of the first pan-Canadian projects collecting data from all aspects of silage production and management with the objective of providing dairy farmers with practical data to help them develop targeted management plans.

“Given the range of climatic conditions in each province over a growing season, we’re evaluating silage management plans specific to the types of silage produced in different regions to determine which ones work best to reduce costs, benefit the environment and improve cow health and longevity,” said Nancy McLean. 

The team is collecting detailed information on silage production through a survey with a representative sample of 400 farms in different regions. An economic component is included in the questionnaire to measure the costs of silage production. They are testing samples used in rations to measure the quality of the silage from over 200 farms. Data from nutrient and manure management plans will also be collected and DNA extracted from the silage samples to identify fungal contaminants in silage. 

“Farmers need high quality silage with beneficial components for their feed rations to maintain dairy cattle health and milk production. Silage quality is affected by many factors like species, percentage of legumes included, soil fertility, stage of harvest, dry matter, type of silo and silo management. As part of the quality assessment, we are also extracting and testing silage samples at feed-out to detect and identify any fungal contaminants and determine whether mycotoxin-associated species are present in spoiled silage. This too is an important part of quality management,” said Linda Jewell.

Project Overview

  • Principal Investigators: Nancy McLean, Dalhousie University and Linda Jewell of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (St-John’s, Newfoundland).
  • Co-Investigators: Kees Plaizier, Kim Ominski, Emma McGeough, Francis Zvomuya (University of Manitoba), Carole Lafrenière (Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue), Shabtai Bittman (AAFC – Agassiz), Emmanuel Yiridoe (Dalhousie University), David Dykstra (New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries), Fred Waddy (MILK 2020) 
  • Duration: 2018-2022 
  • Total budget: $799,419 

Download a summary of the project here: DairyResearch.ca.

New expert consensus on healthy beverages in early childhood

Recommendations on healthy beverage consumption in early childhood (birth to age 5) were recently made available by an expert panel from leading health and nutrition organizations which included: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association. 

In early childhood, beverages comprise a large portion of the diet and make a significant contribution to nutrient intakes.

Milk is an important source of several nutrients that young children need for proper growth and development such as: protein, calcium, vitamins A, D, and B12, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and niacin. Whole milk may be introduced, starting at 12 months. 

While fortified plant-based beverages have added nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, the amounts are inconsistent and vary by type and brand. Evidence suggests nutrients from plant-based beverages are not as bioavailable compared to milk.

From ages 2 to 5, milk and water are considered as the “go to beverages.” 

To view a copy of the report, visit: 
https://healthydrinkshealthykids.org/professionals/