News related to Dairy Cattle

Bonnie Mallard and Lauri Wagter-Lesperance look at a petri dish

Building their best herd: HIR technology carries big benefits for dairy producers looking to naturally improve herd health and reduce veterinary treatment costs

Treating sick cows is never fun, for either the animal or the farmer. Just ask dairy producer Brad Hulshof. While he’s in the barn tending an animal, everything else he has to do around the farm takes a back seat. Plus, it’s costly—producers like Hulshof invest about $1,800 in life’s usual necessities (particularly feed) from the time a calf is born, up until the animal calves in turn and starts producing milk. Add the cost of extraordinary veterinary treatment to the mix, and that number can climb appreciably.

Dairy cows in a rotary parlour milker

Getting results at Elora Dairy

Researchers are starting to gather results at the new Elora Research Station – Dairy Facility, where advanced technology is helping University of Guelph scientists investigate animal health issues, such as nutrition, genomics, calf behaviour, welfare and overall cow health.

Professors David Kelton and Derek Haley from the department of population medicine have utilized Elora Dairy’s facilities since its doors opened in May 2015.

“Elora Dairy offers top-of-the-line, high-end technology that helps us do innovative work no one has done before,” Haley says.

Dairy calf in front of an automated feeder

Automated feeding systems

A growing calf is a hungry calf, but feeding calves to appetite by hand is prohibitive from a labour point of view. Each calf would need to be fed roughly 10 times daily.

At the same time, there’s a growing emphasis on mimicking natural settings and accommodating animals’ natural behaviour on the farm. Consumers want products from animals that are humanely managed, so a balance must be reached between animals having quality life and economic and efficient production systems.

Dairy cows eating feed through stall bars

Improving reproductive efficiency in dairy herds

To maximize efficiency, profitability and sustainability, dairy producers need to find a solution to embryonic losses during pregnancy.

Professor Eduardo Ribeiro from the department of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph is researching causes of pregnancy losses in cattle to develop strategies that will ultimately improve pregnancy survival and reproductive efficiency in dairy herds. Ribeiro hopes to develop practical applications to help producers by focusing on biological problems of cattle at the cellular level.

Dairy cows eating feed through stall bars

Genetics of feed efficient cows

Canadian scientists conducting a groundbreaking 3,000-dairy cattle study are developing genetic tools to improve feed efficiency and decrease methane emissions.

Dairy cows eating feed through stall bars with one cow looking at camera

Disease-fighting Milk

Milk can do more than build strong bones—it could potentially reduce the risk of disease in humans, with help from new technology developed at the University of Guelph.

High Immune Response (HIR) technology, developed by professor Bonnie Mallard, is a management and breeding tool created for producers to identify cows with inherently superior immunity and disease resistance.

Glass bottle of milk being poured into a glass.

Managing high iodine levels in milk

Iodine is an essential nutrient for humans and animals, such as dairy cattle, but it can be toxic in high concentrations. University of Guelph (U of G) researchers have identified groundwater as the key source of iodine in cow’s milk from certain regions in Canada, and are exploring methods to decrease it.

A recent Dairy Farmers of Canada study found about five per cent of farms across the country produced milk that exceeded the margin of acceptable iodine levels.

Dairy cow licking her calf's head

A new perspective on transition cow health

Pregnant cows often experience two simultaneous phenomena that are neither good for them nor their soon-to-be-born calves – they reduce their feed intake right before calving, and simultaneously, they may experience chronic, low-grade, body-wide inflammation.

How does one affect the other, and which one comes first? Researchers at the U of G are investigating that, and trying to prevent metabolic inflammation that may contribute to health problems.