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New funding to increase feed efficiency and reduce methane emissions in Canada’s dairy industry

$10.3 million for an Alberta - Ontario-led research team

The Canadian dairy industry adds more than $18 billion to Canada's GDP each year with Alberta contributing a significant amount to that total. As international demand for dairy products grows in the coming years, due to growing middle classes in emerging economies and a general global population increase, demand for high-quality milk proteins from Canada is also going to increase.

A project led by Genome Alberta and the Ontario Genomics Institute will help industry growth by using genomics-based approaches to select for dairy cattle with the genetic traits needed for more efficient feed conversion and to lower methane emissions.

To date, it has been both difficult and expensive to collect the data required for such selection. The research team led by Dr. Filippo Miglior of the University of Guelph and Dr. Paul Stothard from Livestock Gentec at the University of Alberta want to change that by using the latest genomic approaches and the award-winning phenotyping platform developed by Growsafe here in Alberta, to collect and assess the required data to carry out the selection.

Image of a cowThe results of this $10 million project will assist dairy farmers and the dairy industry to breed cattle that will carry these two important traits. Farmers will save money (as feed is the single largest expense in milk production), while the international competitiveness of Canada’s dairy industry will increase. The environmental footprint of the dairy sector will also be reduced, in part due to lower methane emissions, but also because more feed efficient animals produce less manure waste. Broad application of the project’s findings will be enhanced by the involvement of several industry organizations and international research partners in the project, not only benefiting Canada’s dairy industry, but also contributing to global food security and sustainability.

Genome Alberta's Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Gijs van Rooijen said the research team was successful in its application because “of the strong connection between the industry needs and the academic capacity underpinned by excellent science at a national and international level”.

The 2014 LSARP project “Increasing feed efficiency and reducing methane emissions through genomics: A promising goal for the Canadian dairy industry” is led by Genome Alberta and the Ontario Genomics Institute.

The funding story behind this project shows what can be done when researchers, organizations, companies, and universities pool their resources to accomplish important research objectives.
The $10.3 million funding package is made possible with approx. $3.9 million through the Genome Canada Large Scale Applied Research Project competition, and the balance comes from a diverse collection of funders:

  • Genome Alberta
  • Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency
  • Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation
  • Canadian Dairy Network
  • GrowSafe, Alberta
  • US Department of Agriculture
  • Australia Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport, and Resources
  • Scottish Rural College, UK
  • Qualitas, Switzerland

The Large Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) competition

The call for applications for the 2014 LSARP came out in June of 2014 and was directed at projects that fit the competition guidelines of ‘feeding the future’. The focus was on the application of genomics in the agri-food and fisheries/aquaculture sectors to address challenges and opportunities related to global food safety, security and sustainable production, and that contributed to the Canadian bioeconomy and well-being of Canadians.

Genome Canada, in partnership with the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), has now announced the 11 successful projects resulting from that competition. These projects represent a total investment of $93 million: $30.8 million of federal funding through Genome Canada; $5 million from WGRF towards three of the projects; and, the balance from project co-funders.

New funding to increase feed efficiency and reduce methane emissions in Canada’s dairy industry

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