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.

New National Dairy Research Strategy Announced

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Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) has adopted a new strategy to direct its investments in dairy production and human nutrition and health research. Four major themes have been identified:

  1. Dairy farm efficiency and sustainability
  2. Animal health and welfare
  3. Milk composition, quality and safety
  4. Milk products and components in human nutrition and health.

Each theme has targeted outcomes established to ensure that dairy research projects will address the major issues Canadian dairy farmers want solved by research. To view a copy of the strategy, visit www.dairyresearch.ca.

The strategy will serve as an important guide for future research investments by DFC.
As a next step in the planning process, DFC’s call for research proposals will be launched the week of November 14, 2016.  Canadian dairy scientists will be invited to apply for funding for the next Dairy Research Cluster.

To receive the call for proposals announcement and details, please subscribe to our distribution list by clicking on the following link by November 11, 2016DFC Call for Research Proposals Distribution List.

New governance body for national research investments: The Canadian Dairy Research Council

The Canadian Dairy Research Council (CDRC) is a new committee with representation from all provinces and members of the Board of Directors of DFC. The CDRC reports to the DFC Board. It guides the overall development, implementation and delivery of research activities for dairy production, and human nutrition and health research.

The CDRC completed its first mandate in June 2016 and developed DFC’s National Dairy Research Strategy to better coordinate dairy farmers’ research investments at the national and provincial levels. The National Dairy Research Strategy was approved by DFC’s Board of Directors in June 2016 and presented to its General Council in July 2016.

For information on dairy research governance and on research highlights, download our fact sheets at:

 

Including corn in crop rotations is profitable for dairy farms and does not result in greater greenhouse gas emissions at the whole farm level

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The following is an abstract of a poster presented by student Véronique Ouellet, Université Laval, at the American Dairy Science Association meeting in Utah last summer.

 

 

 

Corn silage is recognized as a palatable and digestible source of energy for dairy cows. On the other hand, corn silage production is widely criticized as it may carry more environmental risks than perennial forages.

Objective

Our objective was to use the whole-farm model N-CyCLES to assess the effect of different crop rotations with varied levels of environmental risks on dairy farm profits, nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) balance, and greenhouse gas emissions, while optimizing the management practices required to achieve maximum profits. Adaptations made to the model, included modification to rotations, adjustment in the optimization constraints, evaluation of crop production cost, evaluation of forage nutritive value, and update in fertilization requirements.

Methods

Data representative of an average dairy farm from Centre-du-Quebec region in Quebec, Canada were used. Four crop rotation scenarios considered to have different environmental impact were built in the model, and compared: corn grain-soybean-corn silage-alfalfa-alfalfa (very high negative impact, +++); corn grain-soybean-corn silage-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy (moderate negative impact, ++); cereal-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy-naked oats (low negative, +); cereal-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy-alfalfa/timothy-mixed grains (positive impact, -).

Results

Results showed that the highest dairy farm profits (0.12 $/kg of FPCM) were associated with the (++) rotation, whereas the lowest profits (0.05 $/kg of FPCM) were associated with the (-) rotation. The lowest farm-gate to farm-gate greenhouse gas emissions allocated to milk production (0.98 CO2 eq./kg of FPCM) was predicted for the (+++) rotation, whereas the highest value (1.03 CO2 eq./kg of FPCM) was predicted for the (-) rotation. This result is mainly explained by the lack of cash crops sold and the lower NFC and higher N content in cow diets for the farm with (-) rotation. The highest N and P balances (20.1 g/kg of FPCM and 1.185 g/kg of FPCM, respectively) were predicted for the (-) rotation since more corn grain was bought (156.5 t/yr) to compensate for the absence of corn grain and corn silage produced on the farm. Moreover, the lowest N and P balances (12.8 g/kg of FPCM, 0.465 g/kg of FPCM) were predicted for the (++) rotation.

Conclusion

These results suggested that including corn silage in the crop rotation do not carry a greater environmental risk on the considered output than crop rotations without corn, and that growing corn silage is profitable when the whole farm is considered as a single unit of decision. Sound practices still need to be developed to improve other environmental considerations such as soil structure and erosion.

Authors:  Ouellet, V. (Université Laval), D. Pellerin (Université Laval), M. Chantigny (AAFC), and E. Charbonneau (Université Laval)

 

Canadian dairy scientists awarded for research excellence!

In recent weeks, eight Canadian dairy scientists were recognized domestically and internationally for their contributions to dairy science in the areas of animal nutrition, food safety, animal care and welfare and animal health.

Dairy Farmers of Canada congratulates these dairy researchers for their achievements in dairy science and their contributions to innovating in Canadian dairy. All researchers are currently carrying out research on behalf of the dairy sector in projects co-financed by DFC or member organizations.

Drs. Trevor DeVries, Filippo Miglior, Kees Plaizier and Michael Steele received awards from the Canadian Society of Animal Science (CSAS) ; and, Drs. Hélène Lapierre, Xin Zhao and Micheal Steele received awards from the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) at the Joint Annual meeting held in Salt Lake City, Utah last week. Drs. Marina von Keyserlingk and Dan Weary received the first Ruminant Well-Being Award from the World Buiatracs Association (sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health) in early July.

What follows is a short description of the awards received and the researchers’ current work in the Canadian dairy industry.

CSAS AWARDS

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Dr. Filippo Miglior, chief of research and strategic development, Canadian Dairy Network – Award in Technical Innovation in Enhancing Production of Safe Affordable Food 

Dr. Filippo Miglior is a world renowned dairy cattle geneticist working in the areas of genetic evaluation and improvement. He is responsible for the management of research projects for dairy cattle genetic improvement financed by the CDN and the lead on strategic planning and research priorities for the organization. He is the lead investigator in two major dairy genetics and genomics projects in the Dairy Research Cluster and a co-investigator in two others. He is also co-leading a $10.3 million dollar project funded by partners, including CDN and Genome Canada, to increase dairy cattle feed efficiency and reduce GHG emissions from dairy cattle.

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Dr. Trevor DeVries, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph – Animal Industries Award, Extension and Public Service 

Dr. DeVries has made considerable contributions to the Canadian dairy industry through his research and extension work on the effects of feeding management and housing on behaviour in dairy cattle. He was a technical lead, contributor and advisor in the development of the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s proAction animal care program and has been a member of its technical committee. Recently, Trevor delivered extension information on dairy cattle care and comfort through a webinar series for Canadian dairy farmers developed by DFC and Valacta. The webinar series provides important information on the evaluation of cow comfort, comfortable surfaces and comfortable spaces based on the latest research financed by farmers in the Dairy Research Cluster. To view the recorded webinars delivered by Trevor and transfer expert Julie Baillargeon (Valacta), visit www.dairyknowledge.ca.

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Dr. Michael Steele, Assistant Professor, Department of agriculture, food and nutritional science, University of Alberta –  Young Scientist Award (CSAS) and the Lallemand Animal Nutrition Award for Scientific Excellence in Dairy Nutrition (ADSA) 

Dr. Michael Steele’s area of investigation is to understand how early-life nutrition and management programs can imprint the calf’s biological outcomes later in life ; uncover and evaluate feeding schemes and bioactive nutrients that display the properties necessary to improve gut health in dairy calves ; and, characterize the ruminal and intestinal adaptations during the transition to high energy diets in early lactation using feeding schemes based commonly fed commercial dairy rations.

His lab holds a keen interest in the implementation of novel feeding schemes with innovative feeding systems, such as automated calf feeders and automated milking systems.

Plaizier

 

Dr. Kees Plaizier, Professor
 and Associate Dept Head, 
Director of Ruminant Research Unit at the University of Manitoba – Award for Excellence in Nutrition and Meat Sciences 

Dr. Kees Plaizier has made important contributions to the Manitoban and Canadian dairy sector. His research include: the impact of sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) on health and production of dairy cows ; environment sustainability of Dairy Farms ; dry cow management ; yeast culture products ; diagnosis of subacute ruminal acidosis and, evaluation of ruminant feeds. One of his research projects carried out for Manitoba dairy farmers provided critical information to develop best management practices to optimize the use of phosphorus in the diet of their cows.

ADSA AWARDS

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Dr. Hélène Lapierre, Research Scientist, AAFC, Shrebrooke, Quebec – American Feed Industry Association Award 

The award is given to an individual who made an important contribution to research of dairy cattle nutrition. Dr. Lapierre is leading a major research project under the Dairy Research Cluster, the outcomes of which aim to better balance feed rations for dairy cows, and reduce protein in the ration while maintaining cow health. The recommendations that will result in balancing feed rations can potentially increase an average farms’ revenues by about $0.15 per cow per day, or almost $4,000 per year, through savings on feed costs for the cows. Reducing the proportion of protein in dairy cow rations from an average of 18.1% to a realistic 16.5%, will allow Canada to cut its nitrogen emissions by 17,000 tonnes a year and save $77.5 million annually.

Dairy Farmers of Canada is a proud investor in her research. For a summary of her work, click on the link that follows to read the article entitled, New approach to feeding cows benefits both farmers and the environment.

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Dr. Xin Zhao, Professor of animal physiology, McGill University – West Agro Inc. Award 

The West Agro Inc. award was given to Dr. Zhao in recognition of his outstanding research of milk quality as affected by control of mastitis, management of milking, and practices in production of milk.

Dr. Zhao is the successful recipient of research grants provided by DFC and the Canadian Dairy Network to investigate the genetics of bovine milk cholesterol content and to investigate the interaction between pathogens and hosts in mastitis. He and his team are interested in understanding how the microbial virulence strategies affect the nature and magnitude of the host response and how the resulting immune response influences the course of infection.

Canadian Dairy Science Students Share Knowledge at ADSA meeting

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Congratulations to all the Canadian dairy science students that took part in the American Dairy Science Association meetings last week in Salt Lake City! More than 20 students had posters at the event to present their findings and share knowledge with more than two thousand dairy scientists and dairy stakeholders from around the world.


DID YOU KNOW…DFC investments in dairy production and human nutrition and health research support training for 130 students across Canada!


 

Marina von Keyserlingk and Dan Weary of the University of British Columbia win first Ruminant Well-being Award, World Buiatrics Congress 2016

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Drs. von Keyserlingk and Weary, University of British Columbia, Canada, won the first Ruminant Well-being Award presented in early July at the World Buiatrics Congress in Ireland. The award provides the €15,000 and sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.

Dan and Nina are two of the three co-chairholders of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair on Dairy Cattle Welfare co-sponsored by DFC and dairy sector partners for the past 15 years. For more information on their areas of research and contributions to the Canadian dairy sector, visit www.dairyresearch.ca.

 

 

Cow comfort webinars : Online transfer of best practices appreciated by farmers

FromUnknown-1 February 23 to April 6 2016, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Valacta presented a series of 3 webinars on the cow comfort in the barn. The webinars were delivered in english and french to dairy farmers from across the country. A total of 6 presentations were given and 288 dairy farmers took part in the live webinars to hear from experts Steve Adam (Valacta), Dr. Trevor DeVries (U of Guelph) and Julie Baillargeon (Valacta) discuss on-farm issues and solutions.

The recorded webinars and associated documents can be viewed on dairyknowledge.ca. We observed that 2,641 people have been visiting the pages to get information on the topic. We’ve also observed that people from 26 countries visited the site to see the documents and recordings online. Animal comfort is taken to heart by ALL dairy farmers!

The webinars had the objectives of inciting dairy farmers to adopt best practices for the comfort of their animals, developed on the basis of research supported in the Dairy Research Cluster. The statistics and feedback received demonstrated that farmers appreciated the webinars and that the dynamic format and approach used to transfer knowledge in these webinars will be replicated in the future.

To view the recordings or access the cow comfort guide, visit www.dairyknowledge.ca