My Dairy Research Student Competition: Enter for a chance to win $1,500

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) My Dairy Research Student Competition is an online competition for all graduate students (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) involved in a research project funded by DFC in a Canadian university.

The objective is to engage students in the creation of innovative content for research users containing their project’s results, new knowledge and the impacts/benefits of their research for the dairy sector and Canadians.

This nationwide online competition will provide opportunities to graduate students:

  • To apply their science communications and knowledge transfer skills in developing content for research user audiences;
  • To receive acknowledgement for their research in an online community of potential future employers in the dairy sector; and,
  • To be part of DFC’s dairy research success stories showcased in multiple online channels.

Graduate students (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) are invited to prepare and submit content, in English or French, describing their dairy research study and results in one of the following categories: 

  • Podcast (max. 3 min.)
  • Video (max. 3 min.) 
  • Infographic (max. 1 page)

Content must include the following: key study results, methods used, new knowledge and the potential economic, social or environmental impacts of the research on the dairy sector and Canadians. 

All entries will be evaluated by a Selection Committee. A minimum score of 75 out of 100 must be met to be eligible for a prize. The three entries with the highest scores in each category will be posted online on Facebook for public viewing and voting. 


Grand Prize: $1,500 cash prize, in each category, for the submission that received the most votes from the public.

Second Prize: $800 cash prize, in each category, for the submission that received the second highest number of votes from the public.

Third Prize: $500 cash prize in each category, for the submission that received the third highest number of votes from the public.


  • September 15, 2021 – Deadline for submissions
  • October 15, 2021 – Selection Committee identifies the top three submissions in each category
  • October 22 – November 5, 2021 – Online Public Voting Period 
  • November 9, 2021 – Prizes announced

NEW Dairy Research Hub Launched on

A new Dairy Research hub was launched on Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) website at: The site contains key information on DFC research investments, governance, My Dairy Research Student Competition and research partners. As a part of the DFC corporate site, the new look and feel of the research content enables easier navigation, a better user experience on all devices and enables quick and easy page sharing across social media platforms.

Video on DFC research investments and impacts

Watch the video featuring DFC’s investments and impacts in Canadian dairy research by clicking on the following link:

What’s Next?

Over the next five months, DFC’s research program and funding information for dairy production and human nutrition and health research will be transferred from the site and and housed in the DFC Dairy Research Hub. Watch for updates including the call for research proposals for the Dairy Research Cluster 4 set for the Fall of 2021.

DFC’s New Dairy Research Newsletter 

Dairy researchers, students and stakeholders will soon be invited to sign up for the new Dairy Research newsletter.  The newsletter will contain announcements and updates on calls for research funding proposals along with other pertinent research program news. 

Effective September 2021, the process of migrating content from the and will be completed. The link will remain as a live URL to re-direct users to the new Hub that houses DFC dairy research content. Both and the will be progressively shut down. 

By late 2021, content developed by DFC and its partners for the purpose of delivering knowledge translation and transfer materials will be housed in Lactanet’s new website at  DFC is partnering with Lactanet to include DFC-branded materials on their website. Content like extension articles and factsheets currently found on the Dairy Research Blog and will be migrated gradually to the website. This new DFC-Lactanet partnership in KTT content delivery will optimize dairy farmers’ search and access to a combination of tools and materials online in one national location. 

Canadian Dairy Farmers Have their Say in Dairy Research

Dairy farmers of Canada has initiated the process to update the National Dairy Research Strategy to guide investments in science over the next five years. The process, under the oversight of the Canadian Dairy Research Council, involves an online survey developed for broad consultation on research topics and facilitated focus groups with technical and scientific experts to determine key research orientations for each of the priorities identified from the survey results.

The survey, targeting Canadian dairy farmers, industry stakeholders as well as the scientific and professional communities, was online from April 1 to 23.  The questions covered the following research priority areas: Farm Environmental Sustainability, Farm Productivity, Dairy Genetics, Animal Care and Welfare, Milk and Dairy Products and, Dairy Consumption and Health Attributes, as well questions about knowledge transfer of research results. There were 1,056 respondents from all the provinces; 58% were dairy farmers, 11% researchers and students; and 13% health professionals. DFC wishes to thank all respondents for their participation!

The following graphs represent the demographics of survey respondents.

DFC’s new National Dairy Research Strategy should be released in October and will be the basis of the next Dairy Research Cluster call for proposals to be launched by the end of 2021.

Nutrition Factsheets Show Importance of Dairy in the Diet

Two factsheets were developed and made available on the website. More than 8,000 copies were distributed to dietitians (2,732 copies of both factsheets), high school teachers (4, 414 copies of the Calcium factsheet) and nutrition affiliates in the provinces (1,150 copies of the Calcium factsheet) as part of DFC’s 2021 Nutrition Month Campaign in March.

The factsheet Calcium: A Nutrient of Concern in Canada highlights data from the most recent national dietary survey on the status of calcium intakes amongst Canadians and the contribution of milk products to calcium needs. It demonstrates the widespread calcium inadequacy intake in all age groups, which is mainly related to a decline in milk and milk product consumption over an 11-year period.

Download a copy of the factsheet here: Calcium: A nutrient of concern in Canada

The EAT-Lancet’s Planetary Health Diet: How Does it Compare to Canadian Nutrient Recommendations?  factsheet outlines the nutritional assessment of the dietary patterns defined by the Eat-Lancet Commission compared to current Canadian recommended nutrient intakes. Four dietary patterns described by the EAT-Lancet’s Planetary Health Diet do not meet the daily recommended intakes of several essential nutrients for many life-stage and gender groups. These problematic nutrients are calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Download a copy of the factsheet here: The EAT-Lancet’s Planetary Health Diet: How does it Compare to Canadian Nutrient Recommendations?

More than 20 years of research supports ongoing improvements in dairy cattle care and welfare in Canada

Photo credit: UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre

For more than 20 years, David Fraser, Dan Weary and Nina Von Keyserlingk at the University of British Columbia have been the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) – Industrial Research Co-Chairholders in Dairy Cattle Welfare. This team has been leading the science of animal care and welfare practices in the Canadian dairy sector and internationally. DFC and a number of other sector partners have financed the Chair since it was created in 1997 and in 2019, the Chair was renewed for another five years with DFC support and several other partners.

The scientific results have helped farmers continuously improve their practices, establish standards for the evaluation of the animal care module of proAction® and served as evidence for revisions to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle (2009).

Dan Weary and Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk, NSERC Co-Chairholders in Dairy Cattle Welfare
Photo credit: UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre

Highlights of results from the 2014-2019 research program:

Calves fed high volumes of milk and raised in pairs or in groups experienced benefits for their health, welfare and behaviour (social adaptation)

Building on work started early on in the Chair’s history where research showed tremendous weight gain benefits to feeding calves more milk (up to 12 Litres per day) via a nipple (on average daily gain was about 0.90 kg/d) accompanied by reductions in cross sucking, the group moved to explore social housing. Studies of calves paired or housed in groups, showed that calves ate more starter and gained more weight compared to calves housed individually.1,2 Pair housing also improved starter intake (at 3-10 weeks old), improving daily weight gain by an average of a 130 grams per day more compared to individually housed calves. 

From a behavioural perspective, the benefits observed of housing calves with a partner included better socialization and learning and reduced distress response at weaning. For instance, calves in paired housing adapted sooner to new feed, were calmer when moved to new environments and did better when subjected to cognitive tasks.3

Heifers benefited from having a social role model for adaptation to situations like a new housing environment.

Studies found that heifers reared in open pens showed reduced lying and feeding times when first introduced to free stall housing. But when a role model like an experienced cow was with heifers, the heifers adapted to stall use more quickly.4 The team concluded that grouping heifers with experienced older animals positively affected their behaviour and adaptation to pasture and new housing systems.5

The transition period is a critical time for cows and a number of studies were completed to help improve transition cows’ health and care. 

  • A study concluded that an unpredictable and competitive social environment before calving causes changes in feeding and social behaviour, leading to changes in health status and increases the risk of uterine disease in multiparous cows after calving.6
  • Reducing lameness during the dry period and avoiding over-conditioning at dry-off likely promotes improved transition health.7 The researchers found that lameness at dry-off was associated with metritis and transitional diseases, but not with subclinical ketosis. An association between lameness and transitional diseases is partially mediated through reduced feeding time. 
  • A high incidence of lameness during dairy cows’ dry period was observed; hoof trimming before the dry period reduced the risk of lameness for primiparous cows but not for multiparous cows.8
  • Low body condition at dry-off and non-infectious hoof lesions in the weeks before dry-off were associated with chronic lameness during the dry period.9
  • Changes in feeding, social and lying behaviors can help identify cows at risk of metritis. Cows ate less, were replaced at the feed bunk more often and spent less time lying down compared to healthy cows10 during a two-week period before calving and at 3 days before a clinical diagnosis of metritis. 

Cows’ motivation to access the outdoors varies with time of day and season and providing a mechanical brush in the barn can be an important resource for the animals. 

The researchers studied free stall housed cows’ motivation to access pasture. They gauged the cows’ motivation by having them push on a weighted gate to access fresh feed compared to a weighted gate used to access pasture. Weights on the gates were gradually increased over time by the same amount to test the animals’ motivation. They found that cows will work as hard to access pasture as they will to access fresh feed. Cows also worked hardest for outdoor access in the evening.11 When given the choice, cows housed in free stalls spent 25% of their time on an outdoor pack in summer and primarily at night. In winter, they spent 2% of their time outside. On an outdoor pack, cows spent 53.7% of the time lying down during the summer and 4.7% of the time lying down during the winter.12

Similarly, the researchers tested cows’ motivation to access a mechanical brush using a weighted gate system. Cows were trained to push a weighted gate to access fresh feed, a mechanical brush or the same space without a brush. They observed that cows are highly motivated to access a mechanical brush for grooming, suggesting that this is an important resource for these animals.13

Improvements for animal care at calving

Their studies found that cows that were calving preferred sand or concrete flooring, suggesting that these types of flooring may provide better traction for bouts of lying and standing when calving.14 They also demonstrated that cows that were calving preferred visual isolation from others and if provided the option, they will hide behind a barrier. The researchers recommend that providing a plywood barrier for cows when they are calving is a simple and low-cost method of meeting a cow’s need for isolation when calving.15

Benchmarking practices for improved dairy cattle welfare on commercial farms 

The researchers tested farmers’ use of benchmarking reports to measure dairy cattle growth rates and transfer of immunity from colostrum in dairy calves. The use of reports resulted in a majority of farms making at least one management change in consultation with their veterinarian to improve their results.16 They concluded that benchmarking specific outcomes associated with calf rearing can motivate producer engagement in calf care, leading to improved outcomes for calves on farms that apply relevant management changes.

What’s next? In 2019, a new five-year NSERC-IRC program (2019-2024) was launched by co-Chairs Dan Weary and Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk. Over the next 5 years these two scientists will combine practical studies on commercial farms with a series of experimental studies conducted at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre. The objectives for the new program following industry partner consultations are focused on: calf and heifer rearing, cow health and lameness, housing facilities and management, and painful procedures. 

IRC Chair in Dairy Cattle Welfare overview

Chairholders: David Fraser, Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk, Dan Weary (University of British Columbia)

Current Investment Partners: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Dairy Farmers of Canada, Alberta Milk, BC Dairy Association, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., BC Cattle Industry Development Council, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, Intervet Canada Corp., Lactanet, Saputo Inc., SaskMilk, and Semex Alliance.

















REMINDER – Have your say in Canadian dairy research: Answer DFC’s survey to help guide strategic research priorities for the future

There is still time to have your say in Canadian dairy research! Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) online survey about future priorities for Canadian dairy research is open until April 23, 2021.

DFC invites dairy farmers, industry stakeholders as well as scientific and professional communities to complete the survey to help identify research priorities as part of the organization’s process to update its National Dairy Research Strategy. The updated strategy will be used to guide investments in science over the next five years. 

Your participation in the survey is vital to growth and innovation in the sector. DFC invests about $2 million annually in dairy production, and human nutrition and health research. This amount is leveraged to increase investments in research to approximately $8 million annually through matching funding programs and partnership contributions.

It takes about 15 minutes to complete the survey and answers will be kept confidential and amalgamated. Individuals have the option to leave their name and email to enter a draw for the following participation prizes: a $200 gift certificate from Lactanet and three $50 gift certificates from DFC’s Blue Cow Shop.

Please share the survey link widely and encourage your dairy colleagues to have their say too!

Canada Among the First to Introduce Feed Efficiency

{Source: Lactanet press release}

The week of April 9th marked an important highlight in the history of dairy cattle improvement services in Canada as Lactanet introduced the first genetic evaluations for Feed Efficiency in the Holstein breed.

Feed is a major expense on every dairy farm and represents more than half of on-farm production expenses. Some animals are more efficient at converting feed at the bunk to milk in the tank – the primary source of income for dairy producers. Lactanet’s new Feed Efficiency evaluation focuses on selection for improved biological efficiency without affecting production levels or body size and aims to minimize stress during the transition period.

“We are very proud of the launch of new genomic evaluations for Feed Efficiency, which positions Canada among global leaders in terms of the opportunity for genetic selection to improve the production efficiency of dairy cattle”, stated Neil Petreny, Lactanet CEO, “and provide Canadian dairy farmers with additional savings for their everyday operations”. Lactanet Board Chair, Barbara Paquet, added “The Board recognizes and appreciates the significant time and effort invested by Lactanet staff, other industry personnel and the highly qualified team of research scientists involved in this initiative to reach this pivotal successful outcome”.

The launch of Feed Efficiency evaluations was made possible through a large-scale international research project that spanned from 2015 to 2020. The Efficient Dairy Genome Project was a Canadian-led collaboration involving Lactanet as the major industry funding partner and a joint research team from the University of Guelph and University of Alberta. The $10.3M initiative also received much appreciated funding from Genome Canada, Genome Alberta, Ontario Genomics, Alberta and Ontario Ministries of Agriculture and the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities. Only four months after this project’s completion, Lactanet brings this latest world-leading innovation in research to dairy farms across Canada in the form of genetic evaluations for Feed Efficiency.

Initially, Feed Efficiency evaluations are available only for genotyped bulls in A.I. and females in herds enrolled on Lactanet’s milk-recording services, but access will be available to all Canadian herd owners before the end of the year. For every 5-point increase in a sire’s Feed Efficiency evaluation, the daughters are expected to reduce their total dry matter intake after peak lactation by 60 kg without impacting production levels or body weight – each and every lactation.

For more information, contact: Brian Van Doormaal, Chief Services Officer

Click on the titles below to read other genetics articles of interest by Lactanet: 

Are some cows genetically susceptible to Johne’s Disease?

A research project led by Nathalie Bissonnette (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) -Sherbrooke) and Kapil Tahlan (Memorial University of Newfoundland) is investigating genetic markers in dairy animals that may be associated to Johne’s disease susceptibility or resistance. The project, Unraveling the genetic susceptibility to Johne’s disease, is financed by AAFC and Lactanet with in-kind contributions by Holstein Canada under the Dairy Research Cluster 3. 

For dairy farmers, this disease results in financial losses related to reduced milk production, decreased pregnancy rates, increased premature culling, and impacts overall animal welfare. Economic losses in the Canadian dairy sector resulting from Johne’s disease were recently estimated at $21.5 million to $34.1 million.[1]  

The main pathogen that causes Johne’s disease is Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP). Management tools are currently in place to reduce the spread of Johne’s disease in Canada. For example, by implementing the Biosecurity module of proAction®, dairy farmers work with their veterinarians to mitigate the risks of introducing existing and emerging animal diseases on their farms to maintain the health of the herd. However, controlling Johne’s disease is difficult due to the disease’s unpredictable progression and the weak sensitivity of diagnostic tests. 

Previous research has shown the potential to reduce the prevalence of Johne’s disease in cattle by selecting for animals that are genetically resistant to the disease. This innovative application would be a complementary to the tools farmers can use alongside management strategies to prevent infections.  

Over a five-year period, Nathalie Bissonnette and her collaborators collected serum and fecal samples from 3,150 cows. The team used this data combined with other diagnostic tests to define a classification system and identify animals as either infected and infectious, infected and assumed resistant, or healthy. Using this unique dataset, they were able to accurately model the development of Johne’s disease over time and correctly differentiate between cows that would eventually develop Johne’s disease and those that resisted the infection and did not excrete the pathogen. The researchers are also genotyping cows using two proven genetic testing methods (i.e. single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) panel and genotyping-by-sequencing), and analyzing the epigenetic profile of susceptible cows.  So far, the team has identified genetic and epigenetics markers associated with the susceptibility of developing Johne’s disease.

In recent publications, the researchers confirmed the presence of genetic modifications[2],[3] and the epigenetics effects[4],[5],[6]  that are associated to Johne’s disease. 

Analysis was performed to study the markers in vitro[7],[8] and studying immune tolerance to JD using bovine primary macrophages.[9] Further research on a second population of dairy cows is ongoing and will confirm the usefulness of the genetic markers for selection of JD resistance/tolerance.

The team is also investigating the genetic diversity of MAP strains by using validated tools[10] and classifying the variants from animals across Canada that are infected with Johne’s disease at different stages. These analyses will define which factors affect the performance of diagnostic tests and explain disease progression. This ongoing work to identify MAP variants that could be more virulent will be key for the development of a successful vaccination program in the future.


Principal Investigators: Nathalie Bissonnette (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) – Sherbrooke) and Kapil Tahlan (Memorial University of Newfoundland) 

Co-Investigators: Eveline Ibeagha-Awemu (AAFC-Sherbrooke), David Kelton, Flavio Schenkel (University of Guelph), Gilles Fecteau (Université de Montréal), Franck Biet (Institut national de la recherche agronomique – France) 

Total Budget: $1,019,988 

[1] Rasmussen P, Barkema HW, Mason S, Beaulieu E, Hall DC: Economic losses due to Johne’s disease (paratuberculosis) in dairy cattleJ Dairy Sci 2021.

[2] Mallikarjunappa S, Schenkel FS, Brito LF, Bissonnette N, Miglior F, Chesnais J, Lohuis M, Meade KG, Karrow NA: Association of genetic polymorphisms related to Johne’s disease with estimated breeding values of Holstein sires for milk ELISA test scoresBMC Vet Res 2020, 16(1):165.

[3] Bissonnette N, Marete A, Kelton D, Schenkel F, Ibeagha-Awemu E, Fecteau G, Miglior F: Conditional GWAS using sequence-based genotypes for susceptibility to Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis infection in Canadian HolsteinJ Anim Sci 2020, 98(4):

[4] Ibeagha-Awemu E, Bhattarai S, Dedemaine PL, Wang M, McKay SD, Zhao X, Bissonnette N: Genome wide DNA methylation analysis reveals role of DNA methylation in cow’s ileal response to Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosisJ Anim Sci 2020, 98:

[5] Ibeagha-Awemu E, Bhattarai S, Dudemaine PL, Wang M, McKay SD, Zhao X, Bissonnette N: DNA methylome wide profile associates differentially methylated loci and regions with cow’s ileal lymph node response to Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. Journal of Animal Science 2020, 98(4):

[6] Marete A, Ariel O, Ibeagha-Awemu E, Bissonnette N: Identification of long non-coding RNA associated with bovine Johne’s disease using a combination of neural networks and logistic regressionFrontiers in veterinary science 2021,

[7] Mallikarjunappa S, Shandilya UK, Sharma A, Lamers K, Bissonnette N, Karrow NA, Meade KG: Functional analysis of bovine interleukin-10 receptor alpha in response to Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis lysate using CRISPR/Cas9BMC Genet 2020, 21(1):121.

[8] Ariel O, Brouard JS, Marete A, Miglior F, Ibeagha-Awemu E, Bissonnette N: Genome-wide association analysis identified both RNA-seq and DNA variants associated to paratuberculosis in Canadian Holstein cattle ‘in vitro’ experimentally infected macrophagesBMC Genomics 2021, 22(1):162.

[9] Ariel O, Gendron D, Dudemaine PL, Gevry N, Ibeagha-Awemu EM, Bissonnette N: Transcriptome Profiling of Bovine Macrophages Infected by Mycobacterium avium spp. paratuberculosis Depicts Foam Cell and Innate Immune Tolerance PhenotypesFront Immunol 2019, 10:2874.

[10] Byrne AS, Goudreau A, Bissonnette N, Shamputa IC, Tahlan K: Methods for Detecting Mycobacterial Mixed Strain Infections-A Systematic ReviewFront Genet 2020, 11:600692.

It’s time to have your say in Canadian dairy research: Answer DFC’s survey to help guide strategic research priorities for the future

Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) invites dairy farmers, dairy researchers and students, as well as sector stakeholders to complete an online survey about future priorities for Canadian dairy research. The answers will help identify research priorities to update the National Dairy Research Strategy, which will be used to guide investments in science over the next five years. DFC’s first National Dairy Research Strategy was published in 2016.

Your participation in the survey is vital to growth and innovation in the sector. DFC invests about $2 million annually in dairy production, and human nutrition and health research. This amount is leveraged to increase investments in research to approximately $8 million annually through matching funding programs and partnership contributions.

The survey is accessible from April 1 – 23, 2021. It takes about 15 minutes to complete. The answers will be kept confidential and will be amalgamated. Individuals will have the option to leave their name and email to enter a draw for the following participation prizes: a $200 gift certificate from Lactanet and three $50 gift certificates from DFC’s Blue Cow Shop.

Please share the survey link widely and encourage your dairy colleagues to have their say too!

Innovative research to advance genetic and genomic improvements in the Canadian dairy sector

Genetic gains in the Canadian dairy industry have been advancing at an unprecedented rate since the introduction of genomics in August 2009, when the first genomic evaluations were published in Canada.[i] In the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, the average rate of genetic gain more than doubled. It is estimated that genomic selection for novel, economically important traits could generate an additional $200 million per year in annual net benefits to the dairy sector as a result of increased genetic progress for new relevant traits. [ii]

Two research projects funded under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Lactanet (DairyGen Council)) will make considerable contributions to optimizing breeding strategies and maximizing genetic gains to benefit the dairy sector.

1.  Understanding the impact of cutting-edge genomic technologies on breeding strategies for optimum genetic progress in Canadian dairy cattle

Researcher Christine Baes of the University of Guelph is leading this project focused on the analysis and comparison of breeding strategies and novel tools from an economic and genetic improvement perspective to increase progress in Canadian dairy cattle breeding programs. Ultimately, the outcomes will serve to help dairy farmers make more informed decisions about using new technologies, methods and breeding strategies on their farms.

In some of the work done to date, the researchers appraised and described in detail the current breeding structure and are investigating the impact of either continuing with the current structure or incorporating new technologies and traits to optimize dairy cattle breeding programs. A list of 70 traits in use in Canada was prepared and the costs of collecting records on animals were calculated and estimates made of the genetic parameters of all measured traits. A large dataset of more than four million breeding records was used to investigate the use of reproductive technologies in Canadian herds and describe breeding practices.[iii]

Recommendations on how to best incorporate prospective new technologies and novel traits to optimize Canadian dairy cattle breeding programs will be developed, as well as considerations for adoption to help fully understand the long-term effects of altering the current breeding scheme. 

Project overview

  • Principal Investigator: Christine Baes (University of Guelph)
  • Co-Investigators: Flavio Schenkel, Getu Hailu, Angela Cánovas (University of Guelph) 
  • Period: 2018-2023 
  • Total Budget: $908,723 

For a summary of the project, click on the following link: Understanding the impact of cutting-edge genomic technologies on breeding strategies for optimum genetic progress in Canadian dairy cattle.

2.  Accelerating genetic gain for novel traits in Canadian Holstein cows

Previous research has demonstrated that the accuracy of genomic evaluations for novel traits can be improved by increasing the size of the reference population in a cost-effective manner by genotyping cows that already have phenotypes for novel traits. In this new project, researcher Flavio S. Schenkel of the University of Guelph and his team are investigating ways to establish a much larger reference population of genotyped females to maximize the genetic progress for novel traits such as mastitis, metabolic diseases, fertility disorders, hoof health, feed efficiency and methane emissions. 

The researchers are aiming to genotype some 25,000 cows from commercial herds that are collecting relevant phenotypes to increase the size and diversity of the current reference population used in genomic selection. The enlarged reference population will be used to determine genetic parameters, develop or improve genomic evaluations, and deliver more accurate genomic predictions for a series of novel traits. 

A larger female reference population of genotyped cows from herds recording novel traits of interest will support and increase the accuracy of routine genomic evaluations for a portfolio of traits and accelerate genomic gains, leading to the ability to breed more disease resistant and efficient animals. 

Project Overview

  • Principal Investigator: Flavio Schenkel (University of Guelph)
  • Co-Investigators: Christine Baes, Angela Cánovas, Janusz Jamrozik (University of Guelph) 
  • Collaborators: Xin Zhao (McGill University), Ronaldo Cerri (University of British Columbia), Stephen LeBlanc, Eduardo Ribeiro, Filippo Miglior (University of Guelph) 
  • Period: 2018-2022 
  • Total Budget: $999,922 

For a summary of the project, click on the following link: Accelerating genetic gain for novel traits in Canadian Holstein cows.


[ii] Chesnais, J. P. (2016). Breakthroughs in Dairy Genetics and Genomics. Presentation to Dairy Research Symposium of Dairy Farmers of Canada, February 5, 2016, Ottawa, Ontario.