Increasing feed efficiency and reducing methane emissions through  genomics: A new promising goal for the Canadian dairy industry

Status: 
Active
Competition: 
2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition – Genomics and Feeding the Future
Sector: 
Agriculture and Agri Food
Genome Centre(s):
Genome Alberta, Ontario Genomics
Project Leader(s):
Filippo Miglior ( University of Guelph), Paul Stothard (University of Alberta)
Fiscal Year Funded: 
2015-2016
Project Description: 

The Canadian dairy industry adds $16.2 billion to Canadian GDP each year (2011  figures). That figure is forecast to increase as international demand for dairy products  grows in the coming years, due to growing middle classes in emerging economies,  demand for high­quality milk proteins in developing countries and world population  expansion more generally. That figure can also grow (by an estimated $100 million  annually) by improving two key traits in dairy cattle: their ability to convert feed into  increased milk production and a reduction in their methane emissions (methane being  a powerful greenhouse gas).

Dr. Filippo Miglior of the University of Guelph and Dr. Paul Stothard of the University of  Alberta are leading a team that will use genomics­based approaches to select for  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 latest genomic approaches offer an opportunity  to address these problems and collect and assess the required data to carry out the  selection. 

The results of this project will assist dairy farmers and the industry more broadly to  develop 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 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.