Dairy Farmers’ TOP 10 Dairy Cattle Disease and Management Concerns Addressed

Author: Meagan King, University of Guelph

As part of the National Dairy Study’s Needs Assessment (Phase 1), close to 700 dairy farmers completed a survey asking them to identify their top management and disease priorities. The five-year research project was led by Dr. David Kelton at the University of Guelph and his collaborators under the Dairy Research Cluster 2.

The survey resulted in the following priorities identified by Canadian dairy farmers:

Top Management Issues

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Reproductive health
  3. Costs of disease
  4. Cow deaths/longevity
  5. Udder health

Top Disease Issues

  1. Lameness
  2. mastitis
  3. Calf diarrhea
  4. Abortions
  5. Respiratory disease

The Dairy Research Cluster team has compiled resources linked to the top issues in the following interactive poster. Scroll over each priority to discover a pop up window containing sources of information on each issue and how to address it.

National Dairy Study – Resources on milking management, mastitis prevention and lameness

Three VLOGs (video blogs) featuring students responsible for projects and results about milking management, mastitis prevention, lameness, and hock lesions in the National Dairy Study (Dairy Research Cluster 2) are now available on the Dairy Research Cluster’s You Tube channel here:

Assessing Lameness in Dairy Cattle with Stephanie Croyle

Training Assessors:  A key step for the National Dairy Study with Stephanie Croyle

Understanding the Adoption of Best Milking Practices for Udder Health with Emilie Belage

Winning video entries – My research in 180 seconds

During the Dairy Research Symposium in February 2018, two students won prizes for their video entries in the student video competition, My research in 180 seconds. Catalina Medrano-Galarza from the University of Guelph won first place and Meagan King, also of the University of Guelph, placed second. Congratulations to both students for their great work!

Management practices and calf health using group housing and automated milk feeders

Lameness and health disorders in robotic milking systems

2018 Dairy Research Symposium: Transferring Results For Action

SympoImage_017_eng

On February 9th, 2018 over 100 dairy producers, stakeholders, processers, sector partners, and researchers from across Canada took part in Dairy Farmer of Canada’s (DFC) Dairy Research Symposium at the Château Laurier in Ottawa. The theme of the event was Transferring Results for Action, and showcased some of the results of scientific research from the three priority areas targeted in the Dairy Research Cluster 2:  human nutrition and health, genetics and genomics, and sustainable milk production.

All presentations and resources can be found online at: DairyResearch.ca.

Key Takeaways from the session on Milk Products: The Total Package:

  • Dairy and prevention of Type 2 Diabetes: In the PROMISE study, the majority of dairy-specific fatty acids that we are studying show a beneficial impact on insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion in high risk individuals (Dr. Anthony Hanley, University of Toronto).
  • Dairy foods may account for many positive outcomes associated with its consumption, including improved glucose metabolism and appetite suppression. The consumption of dairy between meals as preferred snacks and at meals with carbohydrate should be encouraged as a means of addressing the public health costs of obesity and diabetes (Dr. Harvey Anderson, University of Toronto).
  • A First Canadian trial provides evidence that milk and milk products are important factors in achievement of bone health during adolescence, especially in females (Dr. Hope Weiler, McGill University).
  • Growing evidence suggests the beneficial impact of milk products on Metabolic syndrome (Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of at least three of the five following medical conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Metabolic syndrome is associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes), and cardiometabolic disorders. Dairy intake of Canadians has been lower than recommendations in most age groups since 2004 (based on national survey data) and promotion strategies should be specific, targeting age groups with lower intake and emphasizing role of dairy in health (Dr. Hassan Vatanparast, University of Saskatchewan).
  • Data from epidemiological and clinical studies indicates that consumption of dairy products, in various forms, is either beneficial or neutral with respect to the association with cardiovascular-related clinical outcomes and has no apparent harmful effects on cardiometabolic risk factors (Jean-Phillippe Drouin-Chartier, Université Laval).

Key takeaways from the session Genetics and Genomics – Tools for Dairy Business Improvement:

  • Genomic selection is paying big dividends for the Canadian dairy farmer – more efficient selection for all traits and selection for new traits will affect cost of production at the farm level (health, fertility, cow longevity).
  • In future, improvements will be made using genetics to impact product quality, among others.

Interactive Workshops: 

Three interactive workshops with Canadian experts provided results and resources to improve farm practices with mastitis prevention strategies, better cow comfort and calf care and addressing challenges in transitioning to automatic milking systems (AMS).  Stay tuned to the dairyresearchblog.ca for upcoming posts concerning the outcomes of the workshops and more resources!

Key takeaways from the session on New Science for Dairy Sustainability: 

AAFC scientists presented on water conservation practices on dairy farms, improved genetics and management practices to increase the energy in forages and upcoming changes to protein content in the National Research Council’s (NRC) recommended dairy ration.

  • In-barn water use is 4-7 L per L of milk produced.
  • Conservation practices include recycling all plate-cooler water, improving cleaning protocols and ensuring cow comfort in summer (reduce heat stress); reducing nutrient losses (leaching, runoff, washwater) and energy use also reduces the water footprint.
  • Small changes matter to the dairy sector as a whole – if all farms reduced their in-barn use of water by 1%, 500,000,000 litres of water could be conserved!
  • Increasing the production and utilization of alfalfa-based mixtures is a sustainable strategy to improve on-farm profitability and to reduce the environmental footprint of the Canadian dairy industry.
  • Improved estimations of supply and requirements of proteins and amino acids = better ration formulation that will lead to: increased net farm income and decreased dairy environmental footprint.

More articles on the results generated by the Dairy Research Cluster 2 will be published in the coming months on the DairyResearchBlog.ca to keep transferring knowledge from results for action!

Dairyfarmsplus.ca instructional webinar online: A How-To on using the tool to improve dairy farm sustainability

An instructional webinar is now available on the Dairy Research Cluster You Tube channel at: https://youtu.be/Nbd1hTGFEPk. Access the recorded webinar at any time for information on how to use the DairyFarmsPlus.ca dairy farm sustainability tool to meet your sustainability goals. Recall that the online tool provides an opportunity to:

  1. Learn and Assess your farm’s sustainability with a self-assessment questionnaire and access to more than 110 best management practices in the BMP library;
  2. Measure and Benchmark your environmental footprint and compare it to the provincial and national averages. By estimating your dairy farm’s environmental footprint, you can establish a baseline for monitoring and assessing your sustainability performance from year to year; and,
  3. Take Action – a section to customize your action plan and prioritize your actions based on the tool’s recommendations and your own preferences or expected benefits.

Many dairy producers have already participated in the webinars organized by AGECO, which takes only about 30-40 minutes of your time. Access the tool at www.dairyfarmsplus.ca and review the instruction manual when you need it to make full use of your time online.

When you’re done, provide your suggestions and feedback to improve the tool by filling in the satisfaction survey online at: http://sgiz.mobi/s3/AGECO-DFPLUS.

For information or questions, please contact:

Edouard Clément, AGECO at edouard.clement@groupeageco.ca or Shelley Crabtree at shelley.crabtree@dairyresearch.ca (Dairy Research Cluster).

 

 

 

 

 

A First Step to Improved Hoof Health: Digital Dermatitis

Canada will have its first genetic and genomic evaluations for Digital Dermatitis (DD) in December 2017, which is the first step towards the direct genetic improvement of hoof health in Canadian Holsteins. This success story has resulted from various research initiatives since 2009, culminating to a national project funded under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (led by University of Guelph) and then the development of genomic evaluations for Digital Dermatitis in Holsteins.

Collection of Data from Canadian Farms

b23Lameness is a top animal health and welfare issue for Canadian dairy producers with an important economic impact on farms. One of the objectives of recent research was to provide producers with better management information, including genetic evaluations. Researchers identified and selected the Hoof Supervisor SystemTM for use by hoof trimmers across Canada to collect detailed data related to 19 hoof lesions found in 12 regions on each of the four hoofs. This data collection system includes a flow of data from each hoof trimmer to the national database at CanWest DHI and then to Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).

One of the most important hoof lesions recorded is digital dermatitis, which has an incidence rate of 18% among cows presented to the hoof trimmers and a heritability of 8%. CDN therefore developed a genetic and genomic evaluation system specifically aimed at improving resistance to digital dermatitis in Holsteins. The first evaluation from Digital Dermatitis (DD) was officially published in December 2017 based on 300,000 records collected on 125,000 cows in 1,200 herds by 70 hoof trimmers.

Producers interested in this new trait for herd management and genetic improvement should encourage their hoof trimmer to contribute data to the national data collection system and work with their representative from CanWest DHI or Valacta to have their herd data flow through to CDN.

Genetic Evaluations

CDN introduced a new state-of-the-art methodology to calculate the genetic evaluation for each animal, which is automatically a genomic evaluation for genotyped animals. For sires to receive an official progeny proof for Digital Dermatitis, they must have hoof trimmer data reported for daughters in at least five different herds and a minimum Reliability of 70% after including any genomic information available. Given the volume of data currently available, over 2,500 Holstein sires surpass these requirements.  This means that roughly two-thirds of the Top LPI proven sires will initially have an official progeny proof for Digital Dermatitis. On the other hand, every genotyped sire, both progeny proven or not, will receive a genomic evaluation for this trait and the Reliability for most genomic young bulls in A.I. will exceed 60%. Average Reliability values are higher for progeny proven sires, surpassing 80% for those with an official LPI in Canada and averaging 67% for those with a MACE LPI in Canada. All females will also receive an evaluation for Digital Dermatitis and Reliability levels will generally surpass 60% for genotyped heifers and cows.

As for all functional traits, the average DD proof for sires is set to 100. Sires with a higher Relative Breeding Value (RBV) are expected to have a higher proportion of healthy daughters. On average, sires with a rating of 100 are expected to have 82% of their daughters without any case of digital dermatitis and this percentage increases by 1% for every one point increase in RBV for Digital Dermatitis. With a heritability of 8%, these evaluations provide an opportunity for sire selection to reduce the incidence of digital dermatitis in your herd in conjunction with good herd management practices associated with improved hoof health.

For more information visit the Canadian Dairy Network’s website at: www.cdn.ca.

 

Dairy Research Symposium 2018 – Transferring Results for Action

Join us on Friday, February 9, 2018 at the Château Laurier Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm for the Dairy Research Cluster 2 wrap up conference. New research results will be presented on topics like: Genetics and Genomics: Tools for Dairy Business Improvement, Dairy Products: The Total Package and New Science for Dairy Sustainability.

symposium_recher_017_eng

Top experts in their fields will present three interactive workshops:

  1. Factors affecting health, productivity and welfare in AMS
  2. Animal care benchmarking and new practices for dairy calf care
  3. The cost of mastitis and emerging strategies for prevention

 

Scientific advances in organic dairy farming: Switchgrass as a promising sustainable alternative bedding for cows

A research project financed in part by Dairy Farmers of Canada and its partners under the Organic Science Cluster investigated sustainable alternative sources of bedding for dairy cows. The research team led by Dr. Renée Bergeron (University of Guelph), and collaborators the University of Guelph (Dr. Trevor De Vries), Université Laval (Dr. Doris Pellerin, Dr. Anne Vanasse, Anick Raby) and McGill University (Dr. Elsa Vasseur, Dr. Philippe Séguin, Tania Wolfe) found that switchgrass is a promising alternative to wheat straw as bedding material for dairy cows. They discovered that cows preferred switchgrass over the straw and there were no negative effects on cow comfort, cleanliness and teat end contamination. Switchgrass may also be a more economically advantageous choice for some dairy farmers.

In their study, they assessed cow preference, lying behavior, stall and cow cleanliness and potential bacterial contamination of teat ends. They also analyzed the economic impact of the use of Switchgrass and the best harvesting practices for performance and quality as a bedding.

 UnknownSwitchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a high-yielding, long-term perennial grass grown on marginal land (Sanderson et al., 2006). It is well adapted for growth under temperate climate, is disease and pest resistant, requires low fertilizer applications and is relatively inexpensive to grow and harvest (Frigon et al. 2012).

In a first experiment, nine cows were housed individually in pens with three stalls with different lying surfaces. They were submitted to a preference test for three types of bedding: deep-bedded chopped switchgrass (SG), “switchgrass-lime” mattress (mixture of chopped switchgrass, water and carbonic magnesium lime – farms using organic bedding commonly add lime to reduce bacterial growth), and wheat straw on a rubber mat (control). The cows had been previously exposed to stalls with sawdust covered mattresses. Lying times were recorded and the cows filmed.

pastedImageIn a second experiment, 24 cows in a free-stall housing were offered the same three bedding treatments. Researchers tested the effects of the three types of bedding on lying behavior, cow cleanliness and teat end bacterial contamination. Stall usage was recorded and samples were taken of teat ends and tested for bacteria (coliforms, Klebsiella spp., and Streptococcus spp.).

The researchers found that the cows preferred the switchgrass bedding compared to the other two bedding types when given equal access and choice. The results also showed that the switchgrass and switchgrass-lime deep bedded options were equivalent in terms of lying behavior and cow cleanliness, but the higher moisture content and teat end coliform counts on the switchgrass-lime surface make it a less favorable option. A longer term study would be required to confirm the latter finding.

When wheat-straw and switchgrass were compared for lying time, cleanliness, injury, SCC and teat end bacteria, they were equivalent in terms of comfort and cleanliness.

Harvest and use of switchgrass

The research team also investigated the economic impact of using switchgrass as an alternative bedding and identified harvesting practices to optimize its performance and conservation.

Switchgrass was grown, harvested and dried on two sites in Quebec – at Université Laval and McGill University. The field experiments showed that yields are much higher when switchgrass is harvested in the fall compared to the spring. However, the spring harvest resulted in lower moisture content. Harvesting before or after the first frost in the fall does not seem to affect winter survival or regrowth in the spring and drying efficiency is higher when switchgrass is harvested before frost, compared to after the fall frost. However, the final moisture content of switchgrass remains higher before frost than after frost.

To assess the economic impact of using switchgrass as bedding, ten Quebec dairy farms in five regions of the province were surveyed. For most, it was an economically advantageous choice. Farmers reported that yields and persistence are advantages and other benefits cited included smaller storage space required.

Take away messages:

  • Switchgrass is a promising alternative to wheat straw as bedding material for dairy cows, both as a deep-litter option or used on top of a mattress or mat.

  • There were no negative effects on cow comfort, cow cleanliness or teat end contamination, and switchgrass had better absorbency than straw.

  • Switchgrass may be an economically advantageous choice for bedding on dairy farms.

    For a summary of the dairy-related organic science cluster projects, visit DairyResearch.ca.

 

Genetics: Does Filtering Really Help Achieve Your Breeding Goals?

The following is an extract from an extension article published by Brian Van Doormaal and Lynsay Beavers of the Canadian Dairy Network.

Some producers have adopted the strategy of applying minimum values on one or more traits for filtering through sires to identify those to use in the herd. Such a strategy can have a very significant impact on the resulting sire selection, which is often not considered.

The ideal strategy for producers to achieve their breeding objectives is first to rank sires based on their preferred selection index (i.e. Pro$ or LPI). Once the highest sires for that index are identified, then the second step is to determine how to best incorporate them in your herd by avoiding matings that result in too much inbreeding and/or a higher risk of carrying an undesirable genetic recessive such as the gene associated with Cholesterol Deficiency.

Two national genetic selection indexes, LPI and Pro$, have a critical role to play. Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) and each breed association provides lists of top animals with proven sires, genomic young bulls, cows and heifers, ranked based on their LPI and Pro$.  These indexes have been developed and implemented to guide Canadian producers in terms of setting their breeding goals and then realizing them. Select which index best suits your breeding goals and then stick with it to select the sires to use in your herd while managing the inbreeding level and likelihood of genetic recessives for each mating.

Recall that Pro$ was introduced in August 2015 as a profit-based index that ranks sires and cows according to the net profit that their daughters are expected to realize during the first six years of their life. Compared to Pro$, producers using LPI as their primary selection index can expect more genetic progress for conformation traits but slower gains for production yields and both indexes have a similar expected response for most functional traits.

To consult the full article, click here: https://www.cdn.ca/document.php?id=470.

 

Canadian dairy researcher and extension specialists awarded!

The Order of Agronomists of Quebec awarded Dr. Hélène Lapierre (AAFC), Steve Adam (Valacta) and Julie Baillargeon (Valacta) for their contributions to advancing dairy research and extension. The awards were delivered at their annual conference in Sherbrooke, Quebec held on September 21-22, 2017.

Award of Merit for Agronomy

Unknown-1Dr. Hélène Lapierre, AAFC Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre

Dr. Lapierre has close to 30 years experience as a research scientist at AAFC working with dairy cows. One of her major achievements was to develop unique insights into how nitrogen is used by dairy cows. Nitrogen is an important part of a cow’s diet because it is the key component of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The findings of the research will help improve the formulation models used to develop feed rations for dairy cows. The new formulations, which will cut the protein content of the rations, will increase revenues for dairy farms while reducing releases of pollutants into the environment.

The results of her research over her career have been published in 136 scientific articles, 19 scientific reviews and book chapters and 206 scientific oral presentations and posters.

Medals of Distinction for Agronomy

Steve Adam, Dairy Production Expert on Animal Comfort, Behaviour and Well-being, Valacta and Julie Baillargeon, Technology Transfer and Research Project Coordinator, Valacta

Steve Adam and Julie Baillargeon were awarded the medal of distinction for agronomy in recognition of their exceptional work in the context of a training program on animal comfort. The Barn, A source of comfort was developed to explain the importance of animal comfort for dairy cattle and provide dairy producers with knowledge and practical solutions to apply in their barns.

Together, Steve and Julie surveyed, reviewed and translated the most pertinent research results to develop the program. Much of the research involved dairy farms in Quebec and Canada, with projects financed in large part under the Dairy Research Cluster.

The program and information received wide coverage: it was accessed in 26 countries and to date, their videos were viewed over 20,000 times. Moreover, they were an integral part of a team in partnership with Dairy Farmers of Canada that adapted the program into a series of six webinars (3 english and 3 french) and delivered the information to dairy producers across the country.

Congratulations to our colleagues for their outstanding achievements!