subject: dairy production

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...

Droughts, Dairy and Discretionary Foods: Healthy and Environmentally Responsible Diets Can Mean Consuming More Dairy

Droughts, Dairy and Discretionary Foods: Healthy and Environmentally Responsible Diets Can Mean Consuming More Dairy

Often, dietary advice is given from singular perspectives. Public health professionals consider nutritional benefits first and foremost. Climate activists, concerned with the carbon footprints of modern lives, frequently lobby for vegetarianism. Few studies have sought to balance these, as well as other potentially competing demands. Yet, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require balance. They aim for both sustainable consumption patterns (Goal 12), and ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 (Goal 2). 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...

Discovery of “Dark Matter” in Livestock Genomes

Discovery of “Dark Matter” in Livestock Genomes

Paradoxes are uncomfortable. They remind us of how little we understand. Worse, it sometimes seems the more we know, the less we understand, and that’s a bitter-sweet paradox in itself. Nowhere are paradoxes more apparent than in our understanding of life, and in particular the scientific understanding of the encyclopedia of life—the genome present in every living cell. Many scientists conclude that without understanding these genomic paradoxes, humans cannot fully exploit the amazing potential of genetics to improve human health and enhance the efficiencies of livestock production systems. The latter occurs primarily through DNA marker-assisted selective breeding of livestock. This process exploits the genetic (DNA) variations present in a large population of a livestock species to help select for the high-performing animals that then go into breeding programs. The aim is to improve animal productivity in each generation. It’s a little like how a savings account grows with each year of interest. 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...

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...

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...

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...

Meet our Elite and Premier Sponsors