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Integrating genomic approaches to improve dairy cattle resilience: A comprehensive goal to enhance Canadian dairy industry sustainability

PROJECT LEAD(S)/CO-LEAD(S) Christine Baes (University of Guelph), Marc-Andre Sirard (Universite Laval), Paul Stothard (University of Alberta), & Ronaldo Cerri (University of British Columbia)
COMPETITION/ FUNDING OPPORTUNITY Genome Canada 2018 Large-Scale Applied Research Competition
PROJECT START DATE January 1, 2020
PROJECT END DATE June 30, 2025

Dairy is one of Canada’s most important and dynamic industries. Global demand for dairy products is set to expand further in concert with the middle-class of emerging economies, the need for safe, affordable, nutritious and high-quality milk protein in developing countries and world population expansion. At the same time, the dairy industry is also facing a number of emerging issues important to governments and consumers, related to human and animal health, environmental impacts, sustainability, and social acceptability. This project aims to ensure the global competitiveness of Canada’s dairy cattle industry both on-farm and in exporting Canadian dairy genetics, while ensuring overall sustainability. To address these needs, new datasets and genomic tools will be developed to deliver a more ‘resilient’ cow. New genomic breeding tools for dairy producers and artificial intelligence processes will be implemented based on a novel selection index for resilience, which will include novel traits related to fertility, health and environmental efficiency (i.e. feed efficiency and methane emission). The new index for resilience will allow farmers to reduce costs related to poor cow fertility, diseases, and animal feed, which represent the largest expenses in milk production, resulting in an estimated annual net savings for the dairy industry of $200M.

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