While your two-year old might disagree, sharing is important. And if you’re dealing with cutting edge technology like genomics, sharing information and learning from others in the field is critical. With that in mind, a team of researchers from the Efficient Dairy Genome Project recently attended the 11th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production in Auckland, New Zealand.
“The audience at the congress was really diverse, including students, researchers, tech companies, producers and professors,” said Dr. Luiz Brito, Brazilian post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph. “All components of knowledge production and application were there, creating a great environment for valuable discussions and collaborations.”
A lot of that knowledge related directly to the Genome Alberta dairy project and its focus on feed efficiency and methane emissions. Because those traits are expensive and time-consuming to measure, they require a joint international effort to support research and implementation in the global dairy cattle industry.
Strength in numbers
“I learned that in order to make progress worldwide, we need to work together. In listening to presenters from all around the globe, it really hit home that if we’re going to mitigate the effects of climate change and maximize feed efficiency, it’s crucial to share data and expertise.”
Doing his part in that respect, Brito made a presentation about the Efficient Dairy Genome Project. While he shared what researchers on the project have learned to date, he also learned from others in the process.
“I received a lot of good feedback on our work and had people interested in the real applications of our findings. There are a number of groups worldwide doing their own research but using different phenotypes, breeds and measurement protocols and equipment.”
All of that speaking and listening prompted Brito to ask a pointed question: How could these groups pool their data and synthesize their findings to aid in the development of selection strategies to improve dairy efficiency?
“We drew some very interesting conclusions that have implications not just for Canada but for people around the world.”
Seeing some of those implications first hand was a big draw for Adrien Butty, a Swiss Ph.D student working for the Efficient Dairy Genome Project with Brito.
“One of the highlights for me was the dairy event field trip,” said Butty. “I stayed on a dairy production farm, where I was able to see concepts put into action that, until now, I had only read about. It was an important link for me between the science and the producer and gave me the chance to see things through their eyes and understand the challenges they face. All of this was good input for our project and will help keep our research grounded in reality.”
Echoing Brito’s sentiments, Butty was pleased at the chance to network with some of the leading animal geneticists and glean information to aid his research going forward.
Both men were grateful to Genome Alberta for making the experience possible and felt it was time and money well spent.
“I gained so much knowledge and came home really inspired,” said Butty. “Now that I’m back at the University of Guelph I can share my learning with colleagues and, most importantly, put it into practice.”
Apart from what he learned at the congress, Butty was also encouraged by who he learned it with.
“We had a large delegation and it was nice to see how Canada is leading the research in animal genetics and genomics towards more sustainable and efficient livestock production. Our country is doing a great job in these areas and I’m pleased to be part of the Canadian team.”
On the heels of our success at the 2018 Winter Olympics, you’d have to think that if there was a gold medal for research success in livestock genetics, we’d win that too.