Application of precision technology for resilient cows: enhancing the sustainability of Alberta's dairy industry

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $725,000
Commodity: Dairy Cattle
Organization: Lactanet Canada
Investigator: Filippo Miglior

Alberta is the fourth largest milk producing province in Canada with over 500 dairy farms.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

The dairy industry has benefited from decades of systematic genetic improvement that have enhanced productivity and enabled real reductions in costs to consumers. In recent years, the application of genomics has accelerated genetic gain.

Dairy is one of Canada’s most important and dynamic industries. In 2020, dairy production supported $7.13B in total net farm cash receipts, and the dairy sector contributes roughly $20B to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Alberta is the fourth largest milk producing province in Canada with over 500 dairy farms. Despite this success, the Canadian dairy industry is facing new challenges and opportunities. To maintain its competitiveness, both nationally and internationally, industry focus is shifting from financially-driven considerations to a perspective that also includes social/cultural and environmental considerations, including cow health and welfare and reducing the environmental footprint of dairying.

In February 2022, the Dairy Farmers of Canada developed a goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from farm level dairy production by 2050. 

Establishing a system to collect feed efficiency and methane emissions data from dairy cattle is an essential component that can then be used to develop practices and tools/technologies to improve feed efficiency and lower methane emissions. Feed efficiency data will be collected at Sunalta farm involving 200 cattle per year.

The overall aim of this project is to develop genomic tools to enable implementation of selection to increase dairy cow resilience through phenotyping feed efficiency and methane emission traits on a number of Alberta dairy farms. This project will benefit from running in tandem with the objectives and current research conducted within the $12M Genome-Canada funded Large Scale Applied Research Project, Integrating genomic approaches to improve dairy cattle resilience: A comprehensive goal to enhance Canadian dairy industry sustainability.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

Genomics-based solutions have the transformative power to advance Alberta’s agriculture sector for greater productivity and performance.

This project will create the pipeline for continued phenotyping of cows for feed efficiency and Ch4 emissions for genetic selection for reduced GHG emission, while improving production efficiency. This project will help enable the adoption of best management practices, reduce GHG emissions, and further develop sustainable and responsible agricultural production.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

The key results of this research will be delivered at multiple levels by taking advantage of several industry groups who have established and strong communication tools in place, such as Lactanet and Dairy Farmers of Canada. Genetic and genomic results will be transferred to producers and key industry players through various companies, organizations, and meetings.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.