Scientists present new research at dairy symposium

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Dairy Farmers of Canada’s dairy research kiosk was at the Symposium sur les bovins laitiers in Drummondville, Quebec, on October 29, 2019 to provide information on the new Dairy Research Cluster 3 projects and distribute fact sheets on footbaths, water use and water quality. More than 500 dairy farmers and professionals took part in the one-day symposium.

Three scientists with research projects funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada under the Dairy Research Cluster and the Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle provided findings from their projects.

Unknown.jpegDr. Benoît Lamarche, researcher and lead of the clinical nutrition investigation unit, Université Laval, gave a talk on the impact of dairy products consumption on health, providing evidence that dairy products consumption does not pose a health problem and that some dairy products could have favourable effects on health (per se, by replacing other foods or by contributing to the intake of certain nutrients) and concluding that current recommendations on low-fat dairy products should be reconsidered. His presentation included research results from his project on dairy products consumption and cardiovascular health conducted under the Dairy Research Cluster 2.

Unknown-2Dr. Annie Claessens, a scientist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre in Quebec, informed delegates on early findings from her project on increasing the production and use of alfalfa forages in Canada. The development of more nutritious and persistent alfalfa cultivars through genetic selection is a long and complex process, but the expected results are promising – increased production of milk from forages, better protein use, reduced reliance on concentrates and fewer nitrogen discharges – significantly positive economic and environmental impacts!

elsa_vasseur_109-1465408337-1575199832460.jpgDr. Elsa Vasseur, Chairholder of the Industrial Research Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle at McGill University, explained how farmers can make stall bases more comfortable. Using bedding keepers to maintain deeper bedding is a practical and feasible solution for tie-stall farms. Dr. Vasseur’s results show this practice increases cow comfort and rest time while protecting cows from bodily injury. She also reported on how the first case of mastitis or lameness in primiparous cows can affect their longevity and profitability.

 

New video available on bedding management to improve animal comfort

A new video produced by Novalait explains how dairy farmers at the Ferme René Dupuis Inc. in Quebec successfully applied research results to improve cow comfort on their farm. Adding a bedding keeper helps farmers maintain deeper bedding to reduce injuries and increase the comfort of their herd. Changes were made following science-based recommendations from the research carried out under the Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle. The Chair is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Novalait, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Lactanet.

10 Years of Genomic Selection: What’s Next?

{The following is an extract from an extension article by Brian Van Doormaal, Chief Services Officer, Lactanet}

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It’s been 10 years since the introduction of genomic evaluations in August 2009 and the dairy sector has seen an unprecedented annual rate of increase in the average genetic merit of young bulls entering artificial insemination (A.I.) throughout North America, which now exceeds 120 Lifetime Profit Index (LPI) points and $200 Pro$ per year.  With such a continuous year over year boost in the genetic makeup of genomic young sires offered through A.I. companies, these bulls now represent two-thirds of the total semen market share in Canada.

Figure 1 shows the impact of genomics on the increased rate of genetic progress very clearly. The steady rate of annual gain before genomics, which was 46 LPI points and $79 Pro$ per year, suddenly switched after 2009.  During the past five years, the average rate of genetic gain has increased by 2.2-fold, reaching 102 LPI points and $180 Pro$ annually. The dashed lines since 2009 in Figure 1 reflect the expected genetic progress that would have been achieved for both LPI and Pro$ in Canadian Holsteins if genomics had not been introduced.

Figure 1: Rate of Genetic Progress Achieved in Canadian Holsteins With Genomics

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Genomics provides an unprecedented opportunity to realize selection objectives for lower heritability traits even if they have negative genetic correlations with traits of moderate or higher heritability. Figure 2 shows the impact that genomics has had on genetic progress for individual traits. The first key point to notice is that positive genetic gain is now being realized for all of the major production, conformation and functional traits in addition to Pro$, LPI and its three components. Before genomics, in addition to losing ground for Daughter Fertility, Persistency, Milking Temperament and the Health & Fertility component of LPI, very little genetic progress was being made for other traits including Fat and Protein Deviations, Milking Speed, Daughter Calving Ability and Metabolic Disease Resistance. For all of the other eleven traits in Figure 2, the average rate of genetic gain realized with genomics has increased two-fold.

Figure 2: Genetic Gain Achieved in Canadian Holstein During the Past 5 Years Compared to 5 Years Before the Introduction of Genomics

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What will the future of genomic selection look like?

We are at just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to genomic selection. Given the experience over the past ten years, we can expect to see the following over the next decade:

  • The introduction of a vast array of new traits of economic and social importance, most of which have not yet even been considered by dairy farmers;
  • Increased use of sexed semen, in-vitro fertilization and other advanced reproductive technologies, which also promote the increased use of beef semen to breed dairy cows;
  • Use of DNA genotypes for improved selection strategies balancing genetic gain with maintenance of genetic diversity, including the use of genome-based mating programs;
  • A significant restructuring and consolidation of the A.I. sector, leading to a handful of larger, multi-national breeding companies;
  • Significant value-added benefits from DNA genotyping including automated parentage discovery and recording as well as traceability of dairy animals and food products.

Dairy product consumption is associated with lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular events: Findings from the landmark PURE study

shutterstock_55879525Researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (Hamilton, Ontario), led by Dr. Andrew Mente, are part of a landmark 21-country multinational cohort study (the PURE study) of individuals aged 35-70 years old. They tracked dietary intakes and consumption of milk, yogurt, and cheese of 138,484 individuals over time. They also tracked mortality and total major cardiovascular events (i.e. major CVD, stroke, myocardial infarction) to assess any associations between total dairy and specific dairy product consumption with mortality and CVD events. In a scientific paper published in November 2018 in the prestigious journal, The Lancet, the team of researchers found dairy consumption, especially of regular fat dairy, was associated with a lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events in a diverse multinational population.

Additional research by Dr. Mente associated with the PURE study, and funded in part by Dairy Farmers of Canada, aims to:

  1. Assess the association of dairy product intake, dairy fat content, types of dairy foods, and dietary saturated fatty acids, with blood lipid levels; and,
  2. Investigate the association of dairy product intake, dairy fat content, types of dairy foods, and dietary saturated fatty acids, with obesity (central and overall), diabetes, blood pressure, and hypertension.

Watch Dr. Mente’s presentation on the PURE study delivered at the International Dairy Federation conference on The Role of Ruminants in Sustainable Diets of June 21, 2019 (starts at 05:00): Recent findings from the PURE study:  the case of saturated fat, dairy, meat.

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Update on the Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle

Improving the comfort and longevity of dairy cows can improve dairy farm sustainability and profitability. This is the premise of the Industrial Research Chair in the Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle, launched in 2016 and led by Dr. Elsa Vasseur of McGill University. Preliminary results of multiple studies presented in May 2019 by the scientist and her team show promise for new and innovative approaches to cow comfort and longevity.

Preliminary results to date:

  • Existing tie-stalls at the Macdonald Campus barn were adjusted to deepen bedding using a bedding guard, increase the volume of straw used in bedding to 3’’ and increase the stall length, which resulted in increased lying times, less hock injuries, thus improving overall cow comfort. The study team cautions, however, that individual barn conditions like ventilation and humidity must be considered and management adjusted for a successful deep-bedded stall system.
  • Increasing the tie-stall tie length from 1 metre to 1.4 metres allowed for more opportunity for cow movement within a stall. The study team noted that the change in tie length should be done gradually by choosing which cows benefit most from it and assess how the animal gets used to the change in tie length.
  • Cows are using a variety of resting postures in wider stalls resulting in better cow rest, confirming that current recommendations for stall width must be met at a minimum.
  • Housing dairy cows in loose pens during the eight-week dry period was beneficial for rest and locomotor recovery. These benefits can be attributed to a combination of factors: fewer obstacles in the environment (by eliminating the stall itself), a larger rest area, and a more comfortable lying area. This study established references to broaden the implementation of dry-off pens.
  • Measuring the impact of early cases of mastitis and lameness on the productive life of a cow show that a healthy beginning ensures a higher profit lactation. Identifying at risk stages of production and at-risk cows enables farmers to select the best candidates for a next lactation.
  • Key data is being collected on cost/profit variables farmers can use in their decision-making to develop an interactive herd management tool that will help improve the profitability and longevity of the herd.

Watch the video testimonial from the Roy family of Coaticook, Quebec, as they explain how they used some of the research recommendations to make changes on their farm to improve their cows’ comfort.

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elsa_vasseur_109Dr. Elsa Vasseur obtained her Ph.D. in Animal Science from Université Laval in 2009, looking at on-farm assessment tools for the welfare of young dairy animals. Following an NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship where she worked with some of Canada’s leading researchers in dairy cattle welfare at the University of British Columbia and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, she took up a research position at the University of Guelph’s Organic Dairy Research Centre on the Alfred Campus, before joining McGill University in January 2016.

Canadian Dairy Researchers Awarded!

Dairy Farmers of Canada congratulates Drs. David Kelton, Stephen LeBlanc, Todd Duffield, Trevor DeVries (University of Guelph), Herman Barkema, and Karin Orsel (University of Calgary), for their achievements in dairy research excellence!

During the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, in June, five Canadian dairy researchers were included in the Journal of Dairy Science’s (JDS) Club 100. The JDS Club 100 is an award given to researchers who authored over 100 publications in the Journal of Dairy Science. The Journal of Dairy Science is a high impact peer-reviewed journal for dairy research publications and read across the globe in the dairy science community.

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Left to right: JDS editor-in-chief Dr. Matt Lucy, Dr. David Kelton – University of Guelph, Dr. Stephen LeBlanc – University of Guelph, Dr. Todd Duffield – University of Guelph, Dr. Trevor DeVries – University of Guelph, Dr. Herman Barkema – University of Calgary and Dr. Bill Weiss, Ohio State University, ADSA Annual Meeting. Photo credit: JDS

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Dr. Karin Orsel received the Merck Veterinary Award on July 16, 2019, during the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) Annual Convention in Toronto, Ontario. Sponsored by Merck Animal Health, the award is presented to a CVMA member whose work in food animal production practice, clinical research, or basic sciences is judged to have contributed significantly to the advancement of food animal medicine and surgery, including herd health management.

Inside Dairy Research Highlights 2018: Ten success stories showcasing dairy innovation

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s 2018 Research Highlights are available online for download on dairyresearch.ca. The report covers research governance, DFC investments and partners, and contains ten research success stories in DFC’s priority research areas.

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Research Highlights 2018 

The success stories provide concrete examples of how investments in research are contributing to innovation and excellence. A list of the story headlines follows:

  1. Dairy farms increased efficiency and productivity and have lowered GHG emissions from milk production
  2. Identifying two new traits to select dairy cattle for high feed efficiency and low methane gas emissions
  3. Research supports progress in animal care under proAction®
  4. Canadian team advances world-class research on best practices and standards for dairy cattle welfare
  5. New pathways to prevent, manage and treat infectious diseases of dairy cattle
  6. Mastitis network transfers knowledge and tools for milk quality and production excellence
  7. Impact of milk products on weight and body composition among children and teens
  8. Cheese helps to stabilize blood sugar levels
  9. Benefits of milk as a source of high-quality protein in the management of lung cancer patients
  10. Beneficial effects of consuming skim milk after exercise compared to a sports drink

Breakdown of 2018 research investments

Every dollar invested in dairy research by DFC is leveraged to add about three more dollars in investments from our partners.

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Impact of milk products on weight and body composition among children and teens

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A research project recently completed under the Dairy Research Cluster 2 found that children and adolescents who consume milk products are more likely to have a lean body type. Dr. Hope Weiler of the University of McGill and her team performed a meta-analysis (a statistical analysis of multiple existing studies) of 17 randomized control trials (RCTs) that included children and teens aged 6-18 years old. This is the first meta-analysis summarizing results from RCTs for the effects of milk and milk product consumption on weight and body composition in children and adolescents.

Their analysis showed that milk and milk-product consumption resulted in an increase in lean mass and a lower gain in percent body fat, concluding that children and adolescents who consume milk and milk products are more likely to achieve a lean body type.

The results provide very high-level evidence to support dairy’s beneficial impact on weight and body composition.

A copy of the published results can be accessed here: https://academic.oup.com/advances/article-abstract/10/2/250/5370011?utm_campaign=511018_20190515__NutriNews_Weight_Children&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Nutri_News-All_Users

Key findings from the Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle

Results from a five-year NSERC Industrial Research Chair on infectious diseases of dairy cattle led by Dr. Herman Barkema, University of Calgary, will help farmers improve the management of dairy animal health to prevent, manage and treat dairy cattle for Johne’s Disease (JD) and mastitis for a more profitable and sustainable dairy sector. The Chair is supported in partnership with dairy sector organizations and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Mastitis and JD are costly diseases to the dairy sector, impacting animal health and farm profitability. The economic impact of mastitis in Canadian herds is calculated at $665 million[i] per year in Canada and for JD, another $90 million is estimated.

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  • Experiments indicated that each Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP)-infected calf infected an average of about 3 non-infected pen mates in a group-housed setting. Also, calves had fecal shedding of MAP in the first months of life, exposing them and others potentially to early infection. Calf-to-calf transmission of Johne’s Disease (JD) needs to be a key area of focus and should be part of future control programs for early identification and evaluation of MAP.
  • Better communications and exchange between a farmer and their veterinarian improved the likelihood of adoption of management practices and control programs by farmers, not only for JD, but for other diseases that can be found in dairy farms.
  • A better understanding of non-aureus staphylococci (NAS) species, the most common group of bacteria isolated from the bovine udder, and other bacteria species in milk production, may ultimately lead to the discovery of bacteriocins with the potential for control of S. aureus mastitis.
  • Identified and tested a method to better record and quantify antimicrobial use – a method that can be applied in future surveillance programs.

Research Chair provides opportunity to hire a new scientist in the dairy area

Dr. Eduardo Cobo was recruited for the position of assistant professor at the University of Calgary as a result of this Chair. He is a veterinary immunologist and studies alternatives to antimicrobials. Dr. Cobo will be investigating the role of immunology in bovine mastitis, MAP infection, and digital dermatitis.

 

UnknownDr. Herman Barkema is a Professor in Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle, with a joint appointment in the Dept. of Community Health Sciences of the Cumming School of Medicine. He is also a Guest Professor at Ghent Univ. (Belgium) and Foreign Expert at the China Agricultural Univ. in Beijing. Dr. Barkema’s research program focuses on the prevention and control of diseases in cattle herds, including antimicrobial resistance. He has published > 300 scientific manuscripts and has lectured all over the world.

[i]Mahjoob Aghamohammadi, Denis Haine, David F. Kelton, Herman W. BarkemaHenk Hogeveen, Gregory P. Keefe and Simon Dufour. “Herd-Level Mastitis-Associated Costs on Canadian Dairy Farms”. Frontiers in Veterinary Science (May 2018)14;5:100.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29868620. 

 

 

 

 

Is “Phenotype King” in the era of genomics?

{The following is an extract from the Canadian Dairy Network’s extension article entitled, “Value of Type Classification in the Era of Genomics” published April 30, 2019. To access the full article, click here:  https://www.cdn.ca/document.php?id=524.}

CowsEating_2017.jpgIt has been said by many researchers around the world that “Phenotype is King!” in this era of genomics. What does this really mean? In Canada, there has been a recent surge of discussion on this topic, especially as it relates to the value of type classification data.  The Canadian Dairy Network took a closer look at the key questions being asked by breeders to help clarify the value of genotypes versus phenotypes (i.e.: performance data) in today’s environment of dairy cattle selection.

…If a bull dam’s classification data has such a minor impact on the accuracy of their son’s genomic evaluation, why is type classification important at all?  Why do researchers claim that “Phenotype is King!”? 

This question can be answered in two ways.

First, in a general way, the accuracy of any genomic evaluation system is dependent upon the continued collection of good quality data (i.e.: phenotypes) on an ongoing basis.  Even once a genomic evaluation system is built and established, such phenotypic data is required year after year to keep the genomic predictions relevant.

 Secondly, the reason to collect phenotypes is more specific to each breeder at their herd level.  Every heifer calf born on a farm starts with a Parent Average as the first estimate of its genetic potential.  This estimate of an animal’s genetic merit serves as a predictor of those that are expected to have the highest level of performance in the milking herd.  After birth, there are two ways to improve the accuracy of this first estimate.  By genomic testing a heifer calf, the Parent Average (PA) can be replaced by its Genomic Parent Average (GPA).  Later in life, however, measuring each animal’s own performance also contributes to their estimate of genetic merit, whether they have been genotyped or not.  As an example, classifying all first lactation animals in your herd results in changes to their Conformation index as they go from being a Parent Average (PA) to an Estimated Breeding Value (EBV).  The figure below shows the distribution of changes that occur for Conformation when a heifer PA becomes an EBV after being classified in the first lactation.  Half of all heifers change by at least 1 point up or down once they are classified with some changing as much as ±8 points for their Conformation genetic evaluation. Classifying cows in your own herd will re-rank your cows and cow families, which can have a significant impact on your heifer replacement and culling decisions.

Distribution of the Change in Conformation Index by Adding an Animal’s Own Classification (Without Genomics)

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As expected, if heifer calves are genotyped and the PA is replaced by a GPA, then adding their classification phenotype in the first lactation has less impact than the distribution shown in the Figure.  That said, there are still 20% of heifers that experience a change in their Conformation index that is 2 points or more.

Genomics has changed so many things associated with dairy cattle selection schemes. Genetics offered by A.I. companies through their genomic young sires has reached incredible heights resulting in (a) a focus on reduced generation intervals, (b) doubling of the semen market share occupied by young bulls, and (c) more than doubling the annual rate of genetic progress.  These significant changes have also led to less complete information being available on young sire pedigrees compared to a decade ago, especially the performance data on bull dams. While this trend is undesirable from the perspective of pedigree completeness for the resulting daughters, the impact on the accuracy of selection decision is minor.  On the other hand, herd owners must realize the benefits and value of a continued collection of performance data, such as production and classification, for their milking herd.  Such data serves to validate and/or improve the genetic evaluation predictions used to make important selection and mating decisions.