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

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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-2Unknown-3Dr. 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).

 

Featured

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:

 

Dairy Research Excellence: Canadian dairy scientist awarded prestigious 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize

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Left to right: Norbert Trautmann, President Hans Sigrist Foundation, University of Bern; Marina von Keyserlingk, 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize Winner, University of British Columbia; Rupert Bruckmaier, Head of Veterinary Physiology, University of Bern and Hans Sigrist Prize search committee chair.

University of British Columbia Professor Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk was recognized by the Hans Sigrist Foundation at the University of Bern, Switzerland, with the 2018 Hans Sigrist Prize for her outstanding academic contributions in the field of Sustainably Produced Food of Animal Origin.

“The search committee was unanimous in recognizing that she is truly outstanding when compared to others working in the same field” stated committee chair Professor Rupert Bruckmaier, Head of Veterinary Physiology at the University of Bern.

The foundation awards the Hans Sigrist Prize  with an equivalent of $130,000 CAD research grant to a mid-career academic researcher to recognize research contributions to date and to encourage further outstanding work.

Dr. von Keyserlingk had held a NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Animal Welfare supported by the dairy sector, including Dairy Farmers of Canada, since 2008. Nina is recognized internationally for cutting-edge research on the care and housing of dairy cows and calves. She has been a pioneer in the use of behaviour (including especially automated measures) for the early detection and prediction of disease in animals. This work has focused on the use of changes in feeding and social behaviour as early indicators of disease, and has provided a basis for the rapid growth in new research focused on automated health assessments on farms.

Her work is also among the first in the field of animal welfare to incorporate qualitative methods when addressing animal welfare issues, such as interviews, focus groups and online crowd sourcing tools to understand perspectives of farmers, veterinarians and the public with regards to animal care and use. This work has motivated scientific research better targeted at perceived constraints and illustrates a new trend towards interdisciplinary research to address societal concerns around animal agriculture.

Mastitis MOOCs

A new series of MOOCs on mastitis (MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course) is available free through the Université de Montréal. The series was designed by the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network (CBMQRN) and Université de Montréal as part of the NSERC CREATE in Milk Quality Program. The researchers brought together experts from more than 20 countries to produce the series to initiate graduate students to mastitis science and prepare them for their research programs. Dairy practitioners, teachers and other professionals with a solid scientific background can also enrol to advance their knowledge.

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The first MOOC called, The mammary gland and its response to infectionhas been available since November 2017. It contains basic knowledge on mammary gland anatomy and physiology, immune response, the role of genetics, and pathophysiology. Information can be found at: Mastitis MOOC 1.

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The second MOOC, Mastitis Epidemiology and Diagnostic, presents methods of identification of mastitis infections and methods of diagnostics. Enrolment and information can be accessed at: Mastitis MOOC 2 .

A third MOOC entitled, Mastitis control and milk quality, will be available at a later time.

 

Automated heat detection performs just as well as synch programs and provides fertility intel

Automated heat detection performs just as well as synch programs and provides fertility intel

Authors: Dr. Ronaldo Cerri (University of British Columbia) and Meagan King, (Postdoc, University of Guelph)

Why are automated activity monitors (AAM) becoming more popular on Canadian dairy farms? DFC-funded research has shown that AAM can work just as well as synchronization programs while also predicting which cows will have better fertility.

Neck collars or leg pedometers are currently used on 10% of Canadian dairy farms as their main strategy for reproductive management (>50% of inseminations). Visual heat detection and timed AI are still used more than AAM, but this may change as hormone use is further scrutinized.

Two large field trials in Ontario and BC (funded by the Dairy Research Cluster 2, supervised by Dr. Ronaldo Cerri at the University of British Columbia and students Tracy Burnett, Augusto Madureira, and Liam Polsky) found that reproduction programs using AAM for heat detection are equally efficient as those relying heavily on synchronization protocols.

Breeding cows based on AAM data had similar pregnancy per AI and days open compared with a strict timed AI program (Presynch-Ovsynch). With goals to improve heat detection accuracy and the use of AAM data to make farm-level management decisions, Dr. Cerri’s research group studies how estrus events and intensity are related to ovulation, ovarian/uterine function, fertility, and performance in dairy reproduction programs.

The researchers also found that cows with high intensity heats and large changes in activity (during spontaneous and induced estrus) had greater pregnancy per AI and better fertility, compared to cows with low intensity heats who had more ovulation failure. Moreover, the top 25% highest-producing cows had heats with the lowest intensity and shortest duration. Older cows, those with low body condition, and those experiencing high temperature-humidity indices (above 65) showed less estrus behaviour as well.

In the BC field trial, each individual farm was a big source of variation in the performance of programs based on heat detection, likely because AAM are more prone to individual farm variations compared with established timed AI protocols. This means that the best reproductive program for each farm may differ based on their specific strengths, particularly whether they can better use AAM or injection-schedules properly and consistently. Anovular cows and those with poor leg health can also impair the performance of AAM reproductive programs.

Ultimately, differences in attitudes and preferences among Canadian dairy producers (highlighted in a nationwide survey by José Denis-Robichaud) should be considered when choosing the optimal reproduction management tools. For example, producers have differing views about reproduction hormones in terms of profitability and long-term effects on fertility. However, for farms already reaching 30 to 35% conception rates from breeding at estrus, doing that will still be more profitable than completing full synchronization protocols.

 

Cow comfort: Does making changes to the freestall area make a difference?

Cow comfort: Does making changes to the freestall area make a difference?

Authors: Dr. Karin Orsel, Emily Morabito (MSc.) and Caroline Corbett, (Ph.D), University of Calgary

Cow comfort and animal welfare are of great importance to the dairy industry. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle contains recommended practices and requirements for Canadian dairy producers regarding welfare; however, it is unknown whether changes are actually made on farms, and what effects these changes have on cow comfort.

A research project led by MSc. student Emily Morabito and supervised by Dr. Karin Orsel at the University of Calgary investigated whether changes were made to the freestalls on farms that had previously participated in a cow comfort risk assessment, and then reassessed animal measures of cow comfort described on the Canadian Dairy Research portal. The team found that farms that made changes to the freestall area following the first assessment had a lower percentage of lame cows, and cows had increased average daily lying time compared to the farms that did not make changes, or farms that had never been assessed. Additionally, farmers that had made changes to the freestalls scored certain risk factors for lameness as more important when compared to the group that made no changes.

In the first part of the study, 60 cows were selected on each farm and assessed for lameness, leg injuries and lying time over four days. The 1st group (15 farms) had a risk assessment conducted 5 years earlier and had since made changes to the freestall area; the 2nd group (15 farms) had a risk assessment conducted 5 years earlier, but did not make changes. The 3rd group (14 farms) had never been evaluated previously. Based on the responses from the 1st group, the most frequent changes to the freestall area were increased bedding quantity, changing the stall base to geomatresses, and grooving crossover alleys; however, the specific changes and their effect on cow comfort could not be directly assessed due to the variability in the types of changes, or combination of changes that were made. The changes made are in line with current research, especially those indicating that deep bedded straw or sand, decreases leg injuries that may occur.

Secondly, a questionnaire was conducted on-farm with the producers that was similar to the one they had completed 5 years earlier, and their answers were compared to those that had been provided at the previous assessment. Farmers in the 1st group tended to score risk factors for lameness as more important than those in the 2nd group; however, these producers started with a higher measurement of lameness in the earlier assessment, which may have contributed to their decision to make changes. All farmers scored risk factors as more important during the most recent questionnaire, indicating the previous assessment may have had an impact on producer perceptions of lameness. Additionally, other resources of information resulting from increased industry awareness may have led to all farmers being more knowledgeable regarding lameness and risk factors as time progresses.

This study indicates that those who make changes had improved animal-based measures of cow comfort, and being exposed to cow comfort assessment impacts the perceived importance of risk factors associated with lameness.

Risk Factors for Lameness

  • Cow comfort

  • Facility design

  • Management/Environmental factors

Controlling bovine infectious diseases: Canadian research teams aim to produce beneficial results for farmers

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Dr. Herman Barkema, Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle (IRC-IDDC) at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has been the Senior Industrial Research Chairholder since April of 2014. The research program of the IRC-IDDC focuses on Johne’s disease and mastitis.

Industrial Research Chair – An industry partnership

Dr. Barkema ensures that every facet of this prestigious research partnership funded by the dairy industry (Alberta Milk, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Westgen Endowment Fund, CanWest DHI, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, the BC Dairy Association, and the Canadian Dairy Network) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada will maximally benefit Canadian dairy producers.

Johne’s prevention and control

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MSc. student Dominique Carson is investigating Johne’s disease in young stock.
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PhD. student Carolyn Corbett is investigating calf-to-calf transmission of Johne’s.

A key element in the strategy to achieving eradication of Johne’s disease from the Canadian dairy herd is the adoption of prevention and control practices by dairy farmers. The results of a recent study by Dr. Barkema and his team reveal that “one-size-fits-all” recommendations for these practices will rarely be sufficient for farmers, and that more personal approaches are needed to tailor recommendations to a farmer’s specific situation.

Moreover, Dr. Barkema’s studies indicate that calf-to-calf transmission of the disease-causing pathogen Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) can occur, especially in calves housed in groups.

Better understanding the bacteria causing mastitis

In his work as lead of the environment research theme in the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network (CBMQRN), Dr. Barkema realised that although coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) comprise the most common group of bacteria found in udders of lactating cows in Canada, little is actually known about them. Preliminary results from Dr. Barkema’s research indicate that the total prevalence of this group of bacteria is 10%. Some CNS isolates actually inhibit growth of major Gram-positive mastitis pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, which might be able to be exploited commercially to reduce mastitis in dairy cows.

Research Chairs – A training ground for the next generation of scientists

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Left to right: Students Diego Nobrega, PhD.,  Larissa Condas, MSc., and Dominique   Carson, MSc.

The training of the next generation of researchers and extension personnel represents an additional benefit to the dairy industry from the IRC-IDDC. The graduate and summer students and postdoctoral fellows working with Dr. Barkema’s team are the boots on the ground and the gloves in the lab carrying out the numerous experiments needed to produce beneficial results for producers.

For the remainder of the 5-year IRC-IDDC, Dr. Barkema and his team will complete the projects currently underway in Johne’s disease and mastitis and will share their research findings in Canada and across the globe with dairy farmers, extension practitioners and government representatives.

Dr. Shannon L. Tracey is from Cross the “T” Consulting. Dr. Herman Barkema is professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Calgary’s faculty of veterinary medicine, and holds a joint appointment in the Cumming School of Medicine. He is also a guest professor at Ghent University in Belgium. Barkema leads the environment research theme in the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network, the Alberta Johne’s Disease Initiative, the Alberta Inflammatory Bowel Disease Consortium, the Clinical Research Unit of the Cumming School of Medicine, the University of Calgary Biostatistics Centre, and the technical committee of the Canadian Voluntary Johne’s Disease Program.