subject: livestock

The Energy Cost of Immune Cell Victory

The Energy Cost of Immune Cell Victory

Immune cells are strange beasts. Their favorite occupation, like a child nearing the end of a long summer vacation, is just hanging around looking for something to do. Usually, they just cruise the body in the blood, sometimes detouring into tissues seemingly just because they can. All is good. Read More...

Happy Cows to Reduce Milk Fever

Happy Cows to Reduce Milk Fever

Serotonin is best known to us as a brain factor that affects mood, with high levels associated with euphoria. However, it has much wider effects in the body, influencing gut motility, blood vessels, and osteoporosis. To scientists, this points to an interaction with calcium, and as we all know, calcium is an important component of milk and dairy products. So does serotonin influence milk calcium, and could the mood of cows affect milk production? Recent research by scientists in Wisconsin suggests that serotonin has an effect on regulating calcium in the important transition period from late pregnancy through lactation. Read More...

The First Farmers: Where Did They Come From and Where Did They Go?

The First Farmers: Where Did They Come From and Where Did They Go?

Farming was a transformational technology that began the expansion of human populations and created settlements leading to the emergence of civilization. The origin of farming can be traced to the region known as the Fertile Crescent, which covered the area from modern Egypt around the eastern Mediterranean to Anatolia, the southern Caucasus mountains in the north, and the Euphrates and Tigris valleys in the east. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of early crop production from before 11,000 years ago and have traced the spread of agriculture in all directions from this region. One of the remaining questions is whether local hunter-gatherer populations across Europe and southern Asia learned about farming from afar and began their own farming culture, or whether Neolithic farmers migrated and brought agriculture and settlement with them. So, who were these ancient farmers, where did they come from, and where did their descendants emigrate? Read More...

The Bacterial Diversity in Raw Cow Milk During Its Transport and Storage

The Bacterial Diversity in Raw Cow Milk During Its Transport and Storage

Pasteurization helps make raw cow milk safe for human consumption, but it doesn’t get rid of all bacteria. These remaining bacteria can cause spoilage, thus affecting the shelf life and quality of milk products and leading to wastage. Knowing what bacteria are present in milk before and during milk processing could help identify sources of spoilage and find ways to get rid of them. Read More...

Getting the Balance Right

Getting the Balance Right

Once described as an epidemic, obesity has now reached pandemic status with an estimated 600 million obese adults worldwide, and an additional 1.4 billion that are overweight. The cause of the pandemic is known—people consuming more energy (calories) than they expend—so it would seem that the solution would be to simply eat less. But a team of nutritional ecologists believes that cutting calories will not solve anything, because it ignores some basic tenets of human (and animal) biology. Using data from fruit flies, mice, birds, fish, monkeys, and humans, Raubenheimer, Simpson and their colleagues demonstrate a seemingly universal law of animal nutrition: a predominant appetite for protein. They propose that the human need to meet a fixed daily protein target leads to weight gain through the overconsumption of low protein foods that have come to dominate the Western diet. Rather than advocating for a high protein diet that eschews carbohydrates, they emphasize a balance of macronutrients for optimal health. Can dairy help strike this balance? Whole-food sources of protein that are easy to access, like dairy, can help balance out those beloved low-protein, high-carbohydrate processed foods and keep energy consumption in check. Read More...

Ancient Aurochs Genome Contains the DNA Blueprint for Modern Cattle

Ancient Aurochs Genome Contains the DNA Blueprint for Modern Cattle

A preserved specimen of aurochs bone was discovered deep beneath the Derbyshire Dales in the UK in the 1990s. Aurochs are an ancient cattle breed domesticated around 10,000 years ago somewhere around modern day Iran. In Europe, the last of these animals were still found on a Polish royal reserve as recently as the 17th century. Park et al., have now extracted enough DNA from the ancient bone specimen to sequence the aurochs genome. When they compared the aurochs sequence to the DNA of cattle breeds we know and use in domestic agriculture today, they found a surprisingly high level in common with British and Irish cattle. Read More...

Predicting Performance in Dairy Cows of the Future

Predicting Performance in Dairy Cows of the Future

Selective breeding of dairy cows is a major part of modern dairy farming. Farmers can select the bulls that they want to use to produce animals for their herd. One bull may sire thousands of daughter cows via highly developed systems for artificial insemination. The availability of lots of stored semen from bulls that have been shown to produce cows with excellent production and health traits has been a backbone of improving efficiency and production in dairy farms for several decades. There has been a continuous effort to build on the methods and procedures that contribute to selective breeding, most recently with the advent of genomic tools. Read More...

Dairy’s Value for Samburu Children

Dairy’s Value for Samburu Children

Over the last several decades, environmental changes and political pressures have forced many pastoralist populations, such as the Samburu of Kenya, to abandon their nomadic herding lifestyle for one focused more on agriculture. In addition to becoming more sedentary, these populations have decreased their livestock holdings, and with that, their milk consumption. What does this dramatic shift in livelihood mean for the health of a population with such a long history of milk dependence? Read More...

The Search for Dairy Genes

The Search for Dairy Genes

The original practice of applying personal preferences for selection evolved into a modern and sophisticated science. The latest genetic tools to apply to this science are “personalized” individual animal genome sequences and SNP genotyping arrays. These same tools are being used to evaluate the genetic makeup of existing breeds with dairy breeds, specifically Holstein-Friesian, as a reference point. Read More...

Farms Feel the Heat

Farms Feel the Heat

For many regions of the world home to large dairy herds, climate change models predict substantial shifts in the environment. These shifts look likely to harm milk production. The hunt is on, therefore, to define the causal mechanisms by which climatic variations lower milk yields and to figure out ways to keep the cattle of the future comfortable. Read More...