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International Dairy Science Collaboration Paves the Way for Tomorrow’s Resilient Dairy Herds

Philadelphia | April 25, 2024

In a new Journal of Dairy Science® study, researchers have increased the quantity and quality of the available data on genetic traits related to feed efficiency and methane emissions

Dairy herds of the future will need to be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions, while also feeding the world efficiently and with the lowest possible emissions footprint. An international initiative, The Resilient Dairy Genome Project(opens in new tab/window), is bringing together a large-scale, interdisciplinary team to develop genomic tools to help dairy farmers achieve this goal. In the project's key paper(opens in new tab/window), out now in the Journal of Dairy Science(opens in new tab/window), the team outlines the creation of a standardized international genetic and phenotypic database and the crucial first step toward developing the genomic tools needed for tomorrow’s resilient, healthy, and productive herds.

Two main components of this resilient herd of the future are feed efficiency—or the ability of an animal to produce more milk with less feed—as well as the amount of methane produced by the cow along the way.Increasing efficiency and decreasing methane emissions can not only maximize producers’ profitability but also reduce the dairy sector’s overall environmental impact. Selecting for these traits means having reliable data on genotypes—the gene underlying the traits—as well as phenotypes—the observable characteristics of the trait resulting from the interaction of the genotype with the cow’s environment.

The lead investigator of the study—and the leader of the project as a whole—Christine Baes, PhD, of the Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, explains, “Our ability to generate internationally impactful genomic tools for resilient dairy cows requires us to first to have a global grasp of genotypes and high-quality phenotypes.”

Baes and her team set out to not only gather this massive dataset but also to develop strategies for managing and standardizing the data. No small feat considering the quantity of data and the differences in how they’re recorded, measurement technology used, diversity of genotyping, management practices, and nutrition across countries.

The project’s database currently includes information from seven countries—Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States—that contribute data three times per year. The information includes pedigree, calving, production, feed efficiency, environmental emissions, genotype, and milk mid-infrared spectral files, all merged to provide a shared global database.

This initial study focused on Holstein dairy cows and the team worked to understand the various methods for data collection, including pedigree tracing and genotyping. Imputation techniques were used to ensure uniformity across all genotyped animals.

Baes explained, “As of March 2024, the database contains 1,508,751 dry matter intake records from 18,648 cows and 33,723 methane records from 4,500 cows and continues to grow as countries upload new data.”

Baes outlined, “Our analysis revealed a high level of genetic similarity among Holstein populations across different countries, suggesting significant genetic exchange, which will prove beneficial as we work toward tools for cross-country genomic prediction.”

Despite this, the team was quick to point out areas for further research.

Baes said, “There were variations in the phenotypes for feed intake and methane emissions among countries, highlighting the need for additional uniformity evaluations before further analyses.”

Overall, this international collaboration and data exchange has improved the actual progress toward the launch of feed efficiency evaluations across many project partners, while the increase in data on methane emissions has paved the way for the development of new evaluations for this important trait. Canada launched the world’s first genomic evaluation for methane efficiency(opens in new tab/window) last year in the precursor Efficient Dairy Genome Project(opens in new tab/window) to this new body of work. Through this process, genetic solutions can contribute in the future to the selection of dairy cows that are more resource-efficient and have a lower environmental burden.

Notes for editors

The article is “The Resilient Dairy Genome Project—A general overview of methods and objectives related to feed efficiency and methane emissions,” by Nienke van Staaveren, Hinayah Rojas de Oliveira, Kerry Houlahan, Tatiane C.S. Chud, Gerson A. Oliveira Jr., Dagnachew Hailemariam, Gerrit Kistemaker, Filippo Miglior, Graham Plastow, Flavio S. Schenkel, Ronaldo Cerri, Marc Andre Sirard, Paul Stothard, Jennie Pryce, Adrien Butty, Patrick Stratz, Emhimad A.E. Abdalla, Dierck Segelke, Eckhard Stamer, Georg Thaller, Jan Lassen, Coralia Ines V. Manzanilla-Pech, Rasmus B. Stephansen, Noureddine Charfeddine, Aser García-Rodríguez, Oscar González-Recio, Javier López-Paredes, Ransom Baldwin, Javier Burchard, Kristen L. Parker Gaddis, James E. Koltes, Francisco Peñagaricano, José Eduardo P. Santos, Robert J. Tempelman, Michael VandeHaar, Kent Weigel, Heather White, and Christine F.Baes ( in new tab/window)). It appears in the Journal of Dairy Science, volume 107, issue 3 (March 2024), published by the American Dairy Science Association(opens in new tab/window) and Elsevier.

The article is openly available at in new tab/window)and the PDF version is available at in new tab/window).

Full text of this article is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 406 1313 or [email protected](opens in new tab/window). Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact the corresponding author, Christine Baes, PhD, Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, and Lactanet Canada, at [email protected](opens in new tab/window).

About the Journal of Dairy Science

The Journal of Dairy Science® (JDS), an official journal of the American Dairy Science Association® (ADSA), is co-published by Elsevier and ADSA. It is the leading general dairy research journal in the world. JDS readers represent education, industry, and government agencies in more than 70 countries, with interests in biochemistry, breeding, economics, engineering, environment, food science, genetics, microbiology, nutrition, pathology, physiology, processing, public health, quality assurance, and sanitation. JDS has a 2022 Journal Impact Factor of 3.5 and five-year Journal Impact Factor of 4.2 according to Journal Citation Reports™ (Source: Clarivate™ 2023). in new tab/window)

About the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA®)

The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) is an international organization of educators, scientists, and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world’s population. It provides leadership in scientific and technical support to sustain and grow the global dairy industry through generation, dissemination, and exchange of information and services. Together, ADSA members have discovered new methods and technologies that have revolutionized the dairy in new tab/window)

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

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Jess Townsend

American Dairy Science Association®

+1 217 239 3331

E-mail Jess Townsend


Eileen Leahy


+1 732 238 3628

E-mail Eileen Leahy