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.

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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New Research: Water use management and the water footprint in current and future climates

shutterstock_271766828New research supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 is identifying and testing methods to manage water use more efficiently on dairy farms, including drinking water used by dairy cattle. The five-year project led Drs. Andrew VanderZaag (AAFC) and Robert Gordon (University of Windsor) and a team of collaborators from across Canada called “Reducing the water footprint of milk production in current and future climates” has three major objectives:

  • Characterize in-barn water use and identify best management practices to reduce water use and increase efficiency;
  • Assess heat stress in dairy cows and evaluate abatement options in current and future climates; and,
  • Evaluate practical treatment methods for managing silage effluent.

The project builds on the results from a large water use and conservation project completed under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) that measured the water footprint of milk production and identified ways for reducing it. The researchers are taking measurements of water use (in-barn and wastewater) and heat stress indicators on farms in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Dairy barns are being fitted with flow meters and the data collected will be compiled to develop region-specific water use benchmarks. They will incorporate the data into models to evaluate the effectiveness of different management practices to improve water use efficiency by region while factoring in energy use and the costs of different environmental best practices.

Minimizing heat stress to dairy cows is one of the biggest opportunities identified by the researchers to manage water use more efficiently on dairy farms and lower the water footprint. When cows experience heat stress, their feed intake drops, their water intake increases, and milk yield is decreased. These factors contribute to a higher water footprint value, in addition to negatively impact reproduction and cow health, leading to a loss of revenues for farmers.

The frequency and extent of heat stress episodes in Canada are expected to increase with climate change. To address this challenge on farms, the researchers are examining heat stress indicators like the Temperature Humidity Index (THI is a number that shows the combined effect of air temperature and humidity) in different barn types, designs and ventilation systems on test sites across the country. They will be evaluating different strategies to reduce the impact on the animals and water use.

Another important component of this research includes measuring and capturing dairy farm run-off containing a high pollutant load that can be harmful to the environment. The researchers are investigating low-cost treatment systems to collect the nutrient-rich runoff and will be testing new technologies to capture important nutrients like phosphorous from the wastewater.

The results from this national research will help provide science-based evidence to develop best management practices for climate change adaptation, lower the water footprint and improve environmental farm performance.

Quick Project Facts

Research team:

Principal Investigators:  Andrew VanderZaag (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) – Ottawa) and Robert Gordon (University of Windsor)

Co-Investigators: Roland Kroebel (AAFC-Lethbridge), Merrin Macrae (University of Waterloo), Édith Charbonneau (Université Laval), Terra Jamieson (AAFC-Halifax), Ward Smith, Budong Qian (AAFC-Ottawa)

Collaborators: Tom Wright (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs), Sean McGinn, Tim McAllister (AAFC-Lethbridge), Keith Reid (AAFC-Guelph), Ray Desjardins (AAFC-Ottawa), Tim Nelson (Livestock Research Innovation Corporation), John McCabe (Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture)

Total budget: $706,438

Funding partners: Cash contributions provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Eight Canadian dairy farms are targeted for participation in this research project.

Resources on best practices to reduce water consumption on your dairy farm:

DFC Water Quality and Conservation Fact sheets

 

Videos on water use best practices – Dairy Research Cluster Channel on YouTube

Research summaries and links:

Reducing the water footprint of milk production in current and future climates, Dairy Research Cluster 3 (2018-2022)

Water footprint assessment and optimization for Canadian dairy farms, Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018)

Water Use and Conservation on a Free-Stall Dairy Farm, Dairy Research and Extension Consortium of Alberta, Alberta Milk

 

Dairy Research Cluster 3: FEATURED RESEARCH PROJECT

In the coming months, we will be featuring one of the 15 new Cluster 3 research projects in each blog, providing our followers the opportunity to learn more about the research underway, how it’s associated to dairy farmers’ research priorities, why it’s important for dairy innovation and provide more information about the scientists involved in the projects.

We hope you enjoy the read!

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Optimizing health and production of cows milked in robotic systems

New research started in 2018 under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 is investigating ways to maximize the efficiency of robotic milking systems and optimize cow health within those systems. The project, led by Dr. Trevor DeVries of the University of Guelph, is very timely – about 11% of farms enrolled in a milk recording program in Canada use robots and the adoption of this technology continues to increase.

The scope of the new research is impressive. This is the first study of its kind to investigate robotic milking technologies on farms across all provinces, using data collected in collaboration with Lactanet. The research team includes top Canadian experts in the fields of dairy cattle health, farm management and nutrition, spanning across Canada: Drs. Greg Penner and Tim Mutsvangwa (University of Saskatchewan), Drs. Karin Orsel and Ed Pajor (University of Calgary), Dr. Todd Duffield (University of Guelph) and Richard Cantin, Débora Santschi and René Lacroix (Lactanet).

The research team will be identifying cow and herd-level factors that influence milk production, cow health and the efficiency of robot use in a large-scale sample of dairy farms. The information will be used to identify best management practices to help farmers using robotic systems produce milk more efficiently and maintain excellent dairy cow health, with a specific focus on health in early lactation and feeding practices in robotic barns, based on barn design and layout, for all stages of lactation.

“Considering the number of farms using robotic technology and the potential for growth, there are still gaps in our knowledge on the best strategies farmers can use to address some of the challenges we identified in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 research. This new research will build on those results,” said Dr. DeVries.

In the Dairy Research Cluster 2 project on automated milking systems, the researchers demonstrated that lower milk production and issues with cow health, especially in early lactation, impacted the profitability of adopting robotic systems. Lameness, for example, was one of the primary factors identified with an overall negative impact on milk yield per cow and per robot. Clinically lame cows (gait score of 3 out of 5 or greater) were 2 times more likely to be fetched and produced 1.6 kg of milk less per day than healthy cows and milked 0.3 fewer times per day. Severely lame cows (gait score of 4 out of 5 or greater) were most likely to turn into chronic fetch cows.

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Watch the video about some of the findings from the Dairy Research Cluster 2 project prepared by Meagan King.

Over a 12-month period, this group of researchers will be collecting data on housing, feeding and management by farm and by robotic system, and extract milk recording data for each herd. The data will be analyzed to assess cow and herd level impacts on milk production, health and robot use.

“The extent of the dataset collected by farm and by region will allow us to assess robotic system performance. We will then be able to make some associations or differentiations and develop benchmarks dairy farmers can use if they are already milking with robots or are thinking about installing the technology on their farm. We look forward to developing some very practical independent information for Canadian dairy farmers that is science-based and supports their application of the technology in the most efficient way,” concluded DeVries.

Quick project facts

  • Project timeline: 2018-2022
  • Budget: $300,000
  • Funding partners: AAFC, DFC, with an in-kind contribution from Lactanet
  • Number of farms involved: 200+
  • Number of students to be trained: 8+

 The research team

T DeVries 2019

Dr. Trevor DeVries (Professor and Canada Research Chair in Dairy Cattle Behaviour and Welfare) is the Principal Investigator, project coordinator, and the primary advisor for the Ph.D. student and undergraduate summer research assistants at the University of Guelph. Dr. DeVries will coordinate all the data collection, particularly the data collected in Ontario and Quebec.

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Dr. Todd Duffield (Professor, Ontario Veterinary College) is a Collaborator and an advisory committee member to the Ph.D. student at the University of Guelph, and is assisting in project design, analysis, and interpretation.

Unknown-2Mutsvangwa - file photoDr. Gregory Penner (Associate Professor in Nutritional Physiology) and Dr. Timothy Mutsvangwa (Professor of Ruminant Nutrition and Metabolism), University of Saskatchewan, are providing expertise in dairy cattle nutritional physiology. As Co-Investigator, Dr. Penner is responsible for advising the undergraduate summer research assistants who will collect data on farms in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Both researchers will contribute to data interpretation and manuscript writing.

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Dr. Karin Orsel (Associate Professor Veterinary Epidemiology, University of Calgary) as Co-Investigator, is responsible for advising the undergraduate summer research assistants who will collect data on farms in Alberta. Drs. Orsel and Dr. Pajor (Collaborator) will contribute to data interpretation and manuscript writing.

UnknownThe project involves key collaborations from Lactanet:  Richard Cantin, Débora Santschi and René Lacroix. They will provide assistance in the identification and recruitment of herds, expertise in data management, as well as provide access to their milk recording data (subject to producer agreement and consent to participate in the study).

 

Summaries of 15 new research projects launched under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 now available online

DRC3Optimizing health and production cows milked in robotic systems

Fifteen new research projects targeting dairy farm efficiency and sustainability, cow health and welfare, milk quality, and dairy and cardiometabolic health were announced under the Dairy Research Cluster 3 in July 2019. Joint industry and government commitments to the Dairy Research Cluster 3 total $16.5 million, including the contribution from major partners Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Lactanet Canada and Novalait. Moreover, 1,300 individual dairy farms and 10 dairy processors will be investing their time in the proposed research activities by collaborating with the research teams.

A summary of each research project is now available online at dairyresearch.ca for download. The summaries contain the list of researchers working on the project, the amount invested in the project, the objectives, a brief overview, as well as the expected outcomes.

Copies of the summaries will be distributed at upcoming conferences where the Dairy Research Cluster kiosk is installed.

Resources for the prevention, treatment, and management of mastitis

Dairy farmers looking for resources and tools associated with the prevention, management, and treatment of mastitis can access a number of information documents and videos available online through the Mastitis Network’s new website at www.mastitisnetwork.org.

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The new Mastitis Network (formerly known as the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network) website.

A summary of results from the mastitis research program under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018) is available on dairyresearch.ca. The two-page summary includes a list of key outcomes and links to mastitis research projects conducted over the last five years. By clicking on the links in the document, you can learn more about the results of the project, knowledge translation and transfer tools developed to date, and the publications to inform and help dairy farmers manage the health of their animals.

Four whiteboard videos were also produced by the Mastitis Network on their YouTube Channel. All whiteboard videos, as well as many other resources, can be found on the website.

 

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Video explaining the results of a study on Mastitis prevention and milking management by the Mastitis Network

 

 

 

$16.5M invested in a third Dairy Research Cluster: For a productive, innovative and sustainable sector

logo_grappe_3__sans_txt_EN-FROn July 16, 2019, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced an $11.4 million investment in a third Dairy Research Cluster to be led by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC). Joint industry and government commitments to the Dairy Research Cluster 3 total $16.5 million, including the contribution from major partners Lactanet Canada, Novalait, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Investments will be made in 15 research projects targeted to address DFC’s strategic research priorities identified in the National Dairy Research Strategy and will cover dairy farm efficiency and sustainability, cow health and welfare, milk quality, and the health benefits of dairy products consumption.

The Dairy Research Cluster 3 (DRC3) builds on the success of the Dairy Research Cluster 1 and 2 (2010-2018) to stimulate productivity, sustainability, and profitability on farms, and to improve knowledge of the health benefits of milk and dairy products consumption.

Communications, knowledge translation and transfer (KTT) activities are also planned for the DRC3 with a focused and strategic approach based on the National Strategy for Dairy Production Research Knowledge Translation and Transfer.

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List of the Dairy Research Cluster 3 projects and investments (2018-2023)

 

 

 

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Map with the location, institution, and number of scientists involved in the Dairy Research Cluster 3

 

Video Blog : Derek Haley on Calf Health

A new video blog (VLOG) is available featuring Dr. Derek Haley of the University of Guelph reporting on his research findings in calf health, welfare and the use of automatic calf feeders. Funded under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018), Dr. Haley and his collaborators investigated the labour requirements, potential welfare benefits for calves and the ability to accelerate performance of pre-weaned calves housed in groups with automated feeders. Watch the VLOG of Derek reporting on his findings on the Dairy Research Cluster YouTube Channel here: