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 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, to collect and assess the required data to carry out the selection.

The 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, while the international competitiveness of Canada's dairy industry will increase. The environmental footprint of the dairy industry 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 is called "Increasing feed efficiency and reducing methane emissions through genomics: A promising goal for the Canadian dairy industry."

Funders

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 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

About the Large Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) competition

This LSARP application came out in June 2014, directed at projects focused on 'feeding the future'. 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.