subject: dairy industry

California’s Dairy Industry Has Grown Kinder to the Environment

California’s Dairy Industry Has Grown Kinder to the Environment

Milk is big business in California. It’s the agricultural product that brings in more farm revenue than any other in the state. It employs about 190,000 workers, and involves 1.78 million cows. Indeed, dairy has been important to California’s economy for decades, and over time innovations in animal husbandry, feeding and in growing crops that dairy cows eat have led to substantial changes in greenhouse gas emissions. Recently, Ermias Kebreab and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis, calculated exactly how much these emissions have changed in the 50 years from 1964 to 2014. Although the total emissions from the state’s dairy industry increased over that period, the state also produced much more milk, and the industry has become more efficient in terms of its emissions. Read More...

Developing a Better Cattle Reference Genome

Cows are one of our major domestic animals, with about 1.4 billion domesticated cattle being raised for meat and dairy all over the world. Humans have long drawn from the existing genetic variation in cattle populations to select a variety of breeds with useful traits. The sequencing of the cattle genome enhanced the selection of cattle by allowing the use of genomic tools to select traits. Read More...

How to Breed Climate-Friendly Dairy Herds

How to Breed Climate-Friendly Dairy Herds

When methane emissions that contribute to global warming are blamed on cows, they should, more precisely, be blamed on the microorganisms that live inside them. It stands to reason, therefore, that in seeking ways to reduce methane emissions from the dairy and beef industries, researchers’ primary target should be cows’ microbiomes. In line with this perspective, a group of researchers with teams in four countries recently carried out a detailed analysis of the microorganisms living in the rumens of different herds and breeds of cattle. These researchers have identified a population of bacteria, protozoa, anaerobic fungi and archaea that consistently form the core population of the rumen microbiome. By linking microbiome components to phenotypes such as methane emissions, they propose the establishment of microbiome-led breeding programs as a means to make livestock farming more climate-friendly. Read More...

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...

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