Dairy Farmers of Canada’s 2020 Dairy Research Highlights

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) 2020 Dairy Research Highlights is now available for download on Dairy Farmers of Canada’s website in the Dairy Research section at: https://dairyfarmersofcanada.ca/en/dairy-research

The publication contains relevant information on DFC’s investments in dairy production and human nutrition and health research, its research funding partners, a list of research projects in progress, as well as some of the main outcomes resulting from research and knowledge translation and transfer activities in 2020. A new section of the document includes a list of the institutions in Canada where DFC-funded research is being carried out as well as short biographies from four individuals that describe how and why they chose careers in scientific research in the Canadian dairy sector.

Excerpts from the 2020 report

Investments in research

  • In 2020, DFC invested $1.7 million in dairy production and human nutrition and health research, which was boosted to $9 million by leveraging its investments through grant programs and partnerships. DFC and 30 partners support scientific research to drive innovation in the Canadian dairy sector. 
  • More than half of the research investments (58%) target priorities associated to the role of dairy products in human nutrition and health.
  • 23% of investments target priorities in animal health and welfare; 15% on farm efficiency and sustainability and another 4% on milk composition and quality.
  • 39 research projects are in progress at 35 institutions including research centres and universities across Canada.
  • 124 scientists and 113 graduate students and postdocs are conducting studies in dairy production and human nutrition and health.
  • 3,023 dairy farmers from coast to coast are investing their time as part of several research projects to help drive innovation in the Canadian dairy sector.
  • More than 200 communications and knowledge translation and transfer products in both languages were developed and disseminated to targeted user audiences (Canadian dairy farmers, stakeholders, health professionals and Canadians).

10 key outcomes from DFC investments in research 

Dairy Farm Efficiency and Sustainability

  • In April 2021, Lactanet Canada was the first organization to introduce Feed Efficiency genetic evaluations for the Holstein breed in Canada and among the first globally to provide Feed Efficiency evaluations. Many partners domestically and internationally (including DFC) contributed to this five-year project that received $10.3 million in funding.
  • Three factsheets were developed and distributed to over 5,000 Canadian dairy farmers as part of the proAction® Environment module roll out for which farm environmental assessments will begin this September 2021. The content promotes best practices to mitigate greenhouse gases through livestockmanure, and crop management for better farm sustainability. 
  • Preliminary research results suggest that a slag filter (iron with a gravel pit) can be a low cost, highly effective method for collecting and treating nutrient-rich runoff from bunker silos. Researchers found that the collection and treatment of runoff with a slag filter could be more effective and durable than some other commercially available filters.

Animal Health and Welfare

  • Increasing evidence is being published under the Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle and a Dairy Research Cluster 3 project on the opportunity for dairy cattle movement suggesting that increased dairy cow mobility benefits the animal’s health, behaviour, and welfare. Studies have shown that the animals are motivated to be outside, and when they had more outdoor access, had fewer incidences of lameness and injury.
  • factsheet was developed to support farmers’ decision-making when drying off cull dairy cattle at high production and emergency situations. Following the procedures can also help farmers comply with the new revised federal regulations (2020) for dairy cattle transport.
  • Recent key findings from the Chair in Dairy Cattle Welfare at the University of British Columbia included recommendations and practices for feeding and housing calves; helping heifers adapt to new situations like housing; transition cow health and care; outdoor access for dairy cattle; comfort for cows when calving; and the effectiveness of benchmarking reports to help farmers improve calf management.

Milk Composition, Quality and Safety

  • Preliminary research results have shown that an increasing number of farmers are adopting best management practices for selective dry cow therapy (35% in 2019 compared to 11% in 2015) and selective treatment of clinical mastitis (59% of farmers), which has the potential to reduce antibiotic use and resistance.
  • New resources and tools like factsheetsreports and services have been developed to assist farmers, in consultation with their veterinarians, to apply protocols for the adoption of selective dry cow therapy.

Milk Products and their Components in Human Nutrition and Health

  • Research results from a randomized controlled trial found that dairy products consumed as part of a weight management and exercise program for over-weight/obese adolescent females had favourable effects on their body composition. The researchers concluded that dairy products should remain a part of their healthy diet.
  • DFC’s dietitians organized and delivered webinars to health professionals and produced two factsheets that were distributed to 8,296 health professionals, teachers, and sector stakeholders to reinforce the importance of the role of dairy products in Canadians’ diets.

Visit the Dairy Research hub or DairyNutrition.ca to access the content.

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