subject: dairy industry

Fighting the Resistome

Fighting the Resistome

We are incredibly lucky. We live at a time when antibiotics work their magic saving people from infections. Only a few generations ago, infections reigned supreme and struck down some people in most families. It had always been that way, but memory quickly fades. Modern society assumes that the effectiveness of antibiotics is here to stay—it’s a monument to human ingenuity. However, the continuing emergence of antibiotic-resistant microbes and the lack of new antibiotics in the developmental cupboard are looming threats to human health, and a stark reminder that today’s respite from infection could easily be temporary. Read More...

Cows May Go Green

Cows May Go Green

It’s a tough gig being a cow. Productivity expectations for meat and milk are high, and at the same time, the cow gets a bad rap for belching a potent greenhouse gas, methane, which is a by-product of its digestion. Some people say it’s like driving a car very hard on a winding mountain road and then complaining about the car’s increased exhaust gas emissions. Reducing emissions and fuel consumption while maintaining performance is the golden ambition of car manufacturers. A similar goal is also true for the cow. People in many government agricultural agencies and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) want the beef and dairy industries to use more productive cattle emitting less methane and using less feed i.e., increasing industry production efficiency while decreasing its environmental footprint. It’s a tall order seemingly resisted by the realities of cow biology, however recent ground-breaking research may have opened new opportunities to meet these ambitious aims. Read More...

MicroRNAs May Play a Key Role in Heat Stress Responses in Mammary Glands of Lactating Cows

MicroRNAs May Play a Key Role in Heat Stress Responses in Mammary Glands of Lactating Cows

A concern facing dairy farmers as the long, hot days of summer approach is the threat of heat stress in their cows. Experienced at temperatures above 80°F, heat stress affects growth and development as well as milk composition and volume. Heat stress is a major cause of low fertility in dairy cattle. It also increases susceptibility to metabolic disorders, mammary gland pathogens and mastitis. Compared with other livestock, cattle are unable to dissipate their heat load efficiently. Additional heat generated by the fermentation of food in the rumen compounds this problem. Cows’ sweating response is not highly effective, and the animals rely on respiration to cool themselves. Because of their inefficient response, cattle accumulate a heat load during the day that must be dissipated in cooler nighttime temperatures. In extreme weather conditions with overnight temperatures above 70°F, however, this doesn’t happen. Cattle experiencing increasing heat stress will stop feeding and become restless. They will then begin drooling and breathing more rapidly and with increased effort. They will also begin to group together, further exacerbating the problem. If not controlled, severe cases of heat stress will result in death. Economically, decreased milk yield and reproductive losses through hot summer months seriously affect the dairy industry. Increased occurrences of extreme weather conditions caused by ongoing global warming will only worsen these losses. Read More...

Dairy Cattle Resistant to Tuberculosis

Dairy Cattle Resistant to Tuberculosis

Infectious diseases are not conquered, but sometimes that’s our perception. The infectious microbial agents patiently await the right opportunity occurring at the intersection of multiple circumstances. Their unpredictability is their modus operandi, which often amplifies their adverse impacts. Read More...

Genetic Editing Eliminates Dairy Cattle Horns

Genetic Editing Eliminates Dairy Cattle Horns

Next time you are running with the bulls in Pamplona you may have a moment of vivid, but very brief, clarity and think “If only the bulls were Polled.” In a significant breakthrough, scientists used genetic editing technology to produce hornless dairy cattle (Polled cattle) thereby potentially eliminating a controversial animal welfare issue, the physical dehorning of dairy cattle, while likely retaining their elite dairy production genetics. Read More...

Measuring Inbreeding Balances Efficient Selection with Sustainable and Healthy Herds

Measuring Inbreeding Balances Efficient Selection with Sustainable and Healthy Herds

Selective breeding has been used for many centuries—initially in a crude form by early farmers, but today using highly sophisticated genome analysis and complex algorithms. However, the goals have remained the same: to improve the efficiency of dairy production. This translates into breeding the healthiest, most productive cows suitable for the appropriate farming system and environment. New technologies have provided the capability to monitor the changes that occur with selection in great detail. Two recent papers explored the most effective methods to accomplish this and investigated changes in North American Holstein and South American Gyr dairy cattle. Read More...

Family Trio Sings for Genomic Supper

Family Trio Sings for Genomic Supper

Solving a giant crossword puzzle and completely sequencing a genome have a lot in common, including despair and satisfaction. The puzzle just requires the assembly of all components into the one correct pattern. The first 90% is fast and furious. One’s confidence grows as the unique solution becomes tantalizingly close. Satisfaction seemingly guaranteed. But then, the last 10% rears its ugly head and frustratingly devours time and confidence. “I can’t get no satisfaction”—the plaintive words of Mick Jagger mercilessly resonant. The stark realization is depressing. Most of the puzzle is correct, but there must be an error somewhere. But it’s hard to go back. The inevitable outcome is to accept something that is mainly correct and move on—“you can’t always get what you want.” However, all is not lost. Koren and nine colleagues recently developed a very smart solution for completing the genomic puzzle with much lower error rates. They used a genomic trio of mom, dad, and one offspring for maximal effect and then tested their method in three species. The results were impressive, particularly for the cow. Read More...

A Cow’s Milk Reveals Her Health

A Cow’s Milk Reveals Her Health

Defense wins games. Ask any coach impatiently striding the sidelines. “The defensive line-up must be ever vigilant and able to rapidly neutralize the attacking incursion, which may come from any direction. You cannot wait for help from the cover defense! Any defensive lapse will be ruthlessly exploited by this opposition and all will be lost,” shouts the coach at spent and cowed players as the bell signals the end of their halftime break. Coaches could learn a lot more about defense from biology. An exemplar defensive strategy par excellence is used by mammals, especially dairy cows, where the defensive system is the animal’s immune system, the best in the league, and the opposition threat is microbial infection. Read More...

Lessening the Gas Leak

Lessening the Gas Leak

A team of scientists from four continents has gathered evidence to demonstrate that it should be possible to cut methane emissions from dairy cattle without reducing how much milk they produce nor having to change the conditions in which they are kept. The answer is simply to add an ingredient to their feed. In tests lasting several months, this ingredient, 3-nitrooxypropanol known as 3NOP, cut methane emissions from Holstein dairy cows by about 30%. Achieving such a reduction in enteric methane output across the dairy industry would be a significant contribution to wider efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read More...

Dairy Farmers Prefer Healthy Manageable Cows

Dairy Farmers Prefer Healthy Manageable Cows

Reaping the rewards of the genomic revolution in selective breeding in of dairy cows requires an informed and engaged dairy farmer response. A study published in December 2016 from a Danish group of dairy scientists reports that farmers rank health and management qualities above production traits in their cows. However, this ranking differs depending on whether the farmer is classified as organic or conventional. Read More...

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