Current Research at the Ontario Dairy Research Centre

The following is a list of current projects at the Ontario Dairy Research Centre at the Elora Research Station.

These research summaries are a new initiative started in 2020 committed to increasing awareness of the projects being undertaken at the Research Centres. This is not an exhaustive list, but a snapshot of ongoing projects. Note that some projects may remain unlisted if they are protected intellectual property. 

Research Centres are a key part of the research process. While a portion of a project may be completed at a research centre, further analysis can occur after projects have left the facility. The projects listed here are those that are currently underway of have recently completed the research centre portion of the project. 

If you have any questions about ongoing research at the research station please email

Update regarding COVID-19

The Alliance is committed to ensuring the health and safety of staff, animals, researchers and the community. We are following guidance set out by the University of Guelph’s Office of Research with respect to biosecurity and research activities during COVID-19. Please keep in mind the status of projects may change as the response to this pandemic evolves.

Current research studies

Click to see a summary of each project.

Research summary
Objective To determine how knowledge of individual behaviour traits ('personality') of dairy cows can be used to create feeding strategies to meet individual behavioral and nutritional needs.
Benefit to Agri-food This research will be used by dairy producers to create and optimize individual precision feeding strategies to ensure efficient production, good health, and welfare of individual dairy cows.
Research summary
Objective To determine the impact of feeding a novel, whey-based calf starter on the growth, feed efficiency and welfare of calves, specifically during their transition to consuming solid feed.
Benefit to Agri-food The findings have the potential to improve profitability for Ontario dairy and veal producers by improving weaning success, through greater solid feed consumption and more consistent weight gain across the weaning period.
Research summary
Objective To evaluate the genetic and epigenetic regulation of the bovine immune system by obtaining the immune response (IR) phenotypes and genotypes of approximately 200 dairy cows/year that are part of the Ontario Dairy Research Centre herd. 
Benefit to Agri-food UofG researchers have developed a patented test system to identify animals with a balanced and enhanced High Immune Response (HIRTM), which have been shown to be at a lower disease conception risk. The next step is to expand our understanding of immunological and genetic mechanisms associated with high, average and low immune responder phenotypes of cattle. This research is also expected to extend the use of HIRTM technology into novel applications, such as healthful dairy foods and genomic evaluations for immune response traits.
Research summary
Objective To further refine best management practices for dairy calf disbudding by determining the efficacy of xylazine sedation; and understanding the role of plane of nutrition and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) therapy on longer-term inflammatory pain.
Benefit to Agri-food This research will provide best practices for pain mitigation for very young animals and have a positive impact on animal welfare and pain management. The project will also facilitate continuing education and training for the audiences involved.
Research summary
Objective To develop an immune-based stress model to identify stress phenotypes of dairy calves, determine their heritability and identify genetic markers associated with stress response.
Benefit to Agri-food Identifying stress-associated genetic markers will help mitigate biological stressors and provide an alternative to antimicrobial treatment. It could allow for the development of breeding programs that would improve animal health and reproduction.
Research summary
Objective This study aims to determine specifically how Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) pneumonia damages the lungs and determine why M. bovis infection leads to pneumonia in some calves but not others. 
Benefit to Agri-food This new knowledge will improve methods to prevent and treat M. bovis pneumonia, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in feedlot cattle. 
*Note, this study is taking samples from heifers at the Elora dairy facility, but the research project is largely focused on beef research.
Research summary
Objective Objective: 1) To understand the impact of a complete substitution of supplemental inorganic trace minerals by organic sources on the prevalence of rumen microbial communities, and the function of these communities in dairy cows pre- and post-partum. 2) To understand how the potential changes in the rumen microbiome impact animal health and milk production. 
Benefit to Agri-food The outcomes could be translated into the development of nutraceutical strategies to improve animal health and production efficiency for the optimization of pre- and post-partum rumen physiology.
Research summary
Objective To determine whether replacing dietary supplementation of inorganic trace minerals with an organic source in dairy cows in the last 45 days of gestation will benefit colostrum quality and the postnatal health, immunity and performance of dairy calves. 
Benefit to Agri-food This research will benefit dairy producers and animal nutrition companies by providing insight into the relationship between pregnant cow nutritional management/physiology and the health and performance of pre-weaned calves.
Research summary
Objective To use genomics-based approaches to improve two key traits in cattle: 1) better feed efficiency accompanied by increased milk production; and 2) reduced methane emission. Improving these two key novel traits will address the increasing demand for and global competitiveness of Canada’s dairy cattle industry, with benefits both on-farm and in the export of Canadian dairy genetics.
Benefit to Agri-food This project will allow for a more secure and sustainable supply of Canadian dairy products.