Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Double the width, double the welfare?

Our lab is currently working with Dairy Farmers of Canada on the proAction® initiative to develop a series of experiments, which will provide recommendations to producers on tie-stall design. These experiments will test varying aspects (width, length, neck rail position, chain length, etc.) of the tie-stall to see how they impact the cow and her ability to use her space within the tie-stall. Véronique Boyer and Erika Edwards’ started their project on June 5, 2017, which focuses on cows’ ease of movement with varying tie-stall widths. There are 2 treatments within the project: providing one tie-stall to the cow or two tie-stalls, which will double the width of the stall. We have collected data pertaining to cow ease of movement and space use (position within the stall, quality of lying and rising, number of contacts with the stall), production (milk volume and components), housing (stall cleanliness and bedding softness), and health measures (injuries, lameness, rumination time, feeding, etc.). 
A new measure related to rest has been added to the array of variables already recorded- namely lying time, number of lying bouts, and average duration of lying bouts. A dairy cow spends 12-14 hours/day resting, which makes it critical to provide adequate housing and space to ensure positive well-being. While it is key for a cow to be able to rest, there may also be some importance to what posture she is in while resting. It has been speculated that a cow’s ability to rest in certain postures has an effect on her comfort and welfare. Therefore, a portion of this project will also concentrate on what resting postures a cow assumes based on the stall width she is provided with. We predict cows provided with a wider stall will utilize this extra space by spending more time resting and assuming more relaxed resting postures. These results will allow us to provide recommendations to producers on tie-stall width and which cows may need to be provided with more space (i.e. special needs cows, older cows, etc.). By understanding how the tie-stall impacts the cow, we can improve her ease of movement in the short term and improve housing, production and health in the long term. 

Cow resting in a single width stall


Cow utilizing the extra space provided to her while resting in a double width stalls

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Mini Research day at the Macdonald Campus

On Wednesday July 19th, our lab attended the Animal Science department’s Mini Research Day at McGill Macdonald Campus. This was a day for graduate students of the department and featured guest speakers to showcase their research to each other. The day started off with a brief history of the department and campus by Dr. Kevin Wade, and was followed by student seminars and poster presentations.

Santiago Palacio presented his research on the effects of pasture access, winter exercise, and modified stalls on the behaviour and welfare of dairy cattle in tie-stalls (pictured below).
Photo by: Yangjing Pu

Other student seminars included a range of topics including using technology to determine genetic trends on-farm by Bernard Hagen, the effects of yeast supplementation on genetic expression in transition dairy cows by Audrey St Yves, and laparoscopic ovum pickup in prepubertal water buffalo by Luke Currin. 

A poster session followed the first half of the oral presentations and guest speakers. Jessica St John showcased her poster on the effects of various tie-rail height and forward positions on physical injury level of dairy cows in tie-stalls (pictured below). 

Some notable guest speakers attended the event, including the department's newest member Dr. Jennifer Ronholm, Holstein Canada’s Jeanette Van Der Linden, and McGill alumna Catherine Larivée-Bazinet. Dr. Ronholm gave an overview of her upcoming research looking at the microbiomes of cow mammary tissues and their relation to mastitis. Jeanette Van Der Linden talked about Holstein Canada’s genetic testing technology for herd improvement, while Catherine Larivée-Bazinet gave an overview of Quebec’s veal industry.

To end the day, a Brazilian-style barbeque was held at the Macdonald Campus Farm, where delicious food was provided and conversation ensued. Here it was announced that Jessica St. John had won the people’s choice award for best poster at the poster session! 
Photo by: Yangjing Pu
From left to right: Dr. Hernan Baldassarre, Dr. Kevin Wade, Dr. Bernardo Gasperin, Dr. Bushansingh (Shyam) Baurhoo
Photo by: Yangjing Pu
A special shout out goes to Yasmin Schermann for hosting and organizing the first Animal Science Mini Research Day. It was a wonderful event and we hope it will become a tradition in years to come!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Machine-learning techniques in animal welfare research

Project discussion at Valacta (from left to right): Liliana Fadul Pacheco (Valacta/McGill), René Lacroix (Valacta), Ortéga Wanignon Dovoedo (Valacta), Elsa Vasseur (McGill), and Daniel Warner (Valacta/McGill)

Risk factors explaining the animal welfare status of a dairy herd are currently being intensively investigated by our research team at McGill. Being able to predict actual dairy herds at low or high animal welfare status can make a major contribution to improve the animal welfare status on a large scale and change the status quo. 
Daniel Warner’s research focuses on using new machine-learning techniques to predict whether a specific dairy herd may have animal welfare deficiencies. The routinely collected milking data from Québec’s dairy herds by Valacta come in handy as these data contain plenty of information that may explain the animal welfare status of a specific dairy herd. As it is typical for such big data, relationships and patterns in routine milking data are not easy to grasp. 
Daniel has been, therefore, working on several machine-learning techniques, ranging from prediction models based on a simple decision tree to an entire (random) forest. Such models are often used as a decision support tool by big data companies around the globe. In our project, such models will help us to predict the actual animal welfare status of dairy herds based on routine milking data. Preliminary results are promising. However, the false positive and false negative alerts produced by these models are a continuous cause of concern. While it is essential that our models detect a high percentage of dairy herds with animal welfare deficiencies, it is equally important for a dairy producer that its herd may not be erroneously classified as a low animal welfare herd when in reality it is not. 
Daniel and his colleagues at Valacta and McGill intensified their research efforts to come up with sound prediction models. Based on our results, an intervention protocol will be developed to assist Québec’s dairy producers in improving the animal welfare status. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Recent Conferences (Early 2017)

Our lab member Santiago Palacio recently attended and presented a poster at the Annual Animal Welfare Research Symposium hosted by the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW) in Guelph, Ontario. Following this event he made his way down to Ames, Iowa to attend and present at the 13th North American Regional Meeting of the International Society of Applied Ethology (ISAE)
At both conferences he talked about the effects on the lactating cow's welfare when small affordable stall modifications and/or access to exercise were applied to cows housed in tie-stalls across Quebec and North Eastern Ontario.

We would like to thank our colleagues the University of Guelph and Iowa State University for putting on great events.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Acfas 2017 - l'éthologie dans l'ère du 'big data'

Accueil 
La semaine passée pour le 85ème congrès de l’ACFAS, organisé par l’Université McGill, notre laboratoire a co-organisé avec le laboratoire Artic Ecology Lab de Kyle Eliott un colloque sur le suivi automatique ducomportement animal : l’éthologie dans l’ère du « bigdata ».  Le colloque a été divisé en : traitement de photos, géolocalisation, patron d’activité et interaction animal-objet. L’utilisation des différentes technologies avec des espèces différentes rendent des discussions intéressantes avec des conclusions similaires… Dans l’ère du « big data », nous avons accès a beaucoup d’informations, en temps réel et en continue. Ainsi, les questions sont : 1) Comment peut-on intégrer toutes ces informations provenant de différentes sources afin de mieux comprendre et mieux interpréter les résultats ? 2) Comment analyser les données ? Il était intéressant de constater que nous travaillons tous dans des domaines différents mais que, finalement, nous avons les mêmes problèmes à la fin !


Panel de discussion « Le suivi automatique du comportement animal : l’éthologie dans l’ère du « big data ». Modérateur: Nicolas Devillers (AAC Lenoxville), Panel: Kyle Eliott, Mélanie Guigueno et Elsa Vasseur (McGill tous les 3), et Jean-Philippe Parent (AAC Vineland).



L'équipe de Cow Life McGill: Véronique Boyer, Jessica St John, Paul Stecko, Liliana Fadul Pacheco et Elsa Vasseur
Jessica St John présentait:
Analyse de photos pour détecter l’apparition et suivre l’évolution du niveau de blessures corporelles chez la vache laitière
Liliana Fadul Pacheco présentait:
Récupération et analyse de données massives en provenance des systèmes de traite informatisés (STI) pour le développement d’indicateurs de performance et de bien-être chez la vache laitière
Notre collègue de l'Université Laval Jean-Michel Beaudoin présentait aussi sur les animaux d'élevage:
L’utilisation d’accéléromètres pour automatiser l’analyse comportementale des porcs à l’engraissement
Paul Stecko présentait:
Suivre l’utilisation que la vache laitière fait de son espace à la stalle à l’aide de technologies de biotracking
Véronique Boyer présentait:
Utilisation de collecteurs d’activité pour mesurer les comportements alimentaire et de rumination chez les vaches laitières

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Atelier de Travail du test du Prototype Longévité - Rentabilité



Ce 21 avril, notre équipe a rencontré les conseillers Valacta à la clinique ambulatoire de la Faculté de médecine vétérinaire de l’Université de Montréal à St-Hyacinthe (QC).
A travers un atelier de travail, ils ont pu découvrir le prototype de leurs troupeaux sélectionnés avec leurs propres résultats et graphiques. Les conseillers ont pu jouer avec la première partie du prototype consacré au troupeau. Beaucoup d’échanges et de questions ont été posés dans une ambiance très conviviale.  Un  deuxième atelier sera organisé afin de découvrir la deuxième partie du prototype, celle consacrée à la vache individuelle.
Ces ateliers font partie du projet qui développe et test un prototype d’outil d’aide à la décision sur la visualisation de la gestion de la longévité et son impact sur la rentabilité du troupeau.

Merci à toutes les personnes présentes lors de cet atelier, et à bientôt pour de nouvelles aventures!
                                                                         Manon Demaret et Liliana Fadul avec les conseillers

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Journée de présentation à des étudiants de différentes universités du Québec, le 24 avril 2017 dans le cadre de Op+lait



Début de la journée : présentation à la ferme des projets de recherches en cours par chaque membre du laboratoire dans le cadre d'Op+lait. Les étudiants (universités de Sherbrooke, Laval, Montréal, ITA et McGillprésents ont pu poser des questions aux chercheurs afin de répondre à leurs interrogations. La présentation a été divisée en deux parties avec une petite pause conviviale entre les étudiants et les membres du laboratoire pour discuter autour d’un café.



La journée a continué près de la ferme, sur le site central de Valacta, le centre d’expertise en contrôle laitier. Les étudiants ont donc pu assister à une présentation de l’entreprise et à une visite de Valacta. Valacta nous a offert le lunch, plusieurs personnes travaillant au centre sont venus nous présenter leur métier et nous avons pu prendre connaissance de leurs travaux de recherches. Nous avons ensuite visité les locaux, la salle de collecte des données à partir des échantillons de lait, avec un membre de l’équipe de Valacta qui nous a expliqué leur travail.



Suite à la visite de Valacta, les étudiants sont revenus à la ferme de McGill pour assister à des présentations sous formes de petits ateliers avec les membres du laboratoire. Les étudiants, par petits groupes, ont donc eu un aperçu des différentes mesures, expérimentations réalisées par l’équipe de chercheurs. Chaque petit atelier présentait le matériel, les méthodes ainsi que les différents traitements sur les animaux propres à chaque projet.








Un autre spectateur s’est invité aux présentations à la ferme en fin d’après-midi en voulant être au cœur de l’attention. En écoutant gentiment le projet de Santiago, il a su être récompensé par de petites caresses !

  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Faites la rencontre de deux femmes passionnées et visionnaires en production laitière...





Le Collège Macdonald de l’Université McGill a entrepris un projet d’envergure l’an dernier, soit la chaire de recherche industrielle du Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et en génie du Canada (CRSNG)- Novalait, en collaboration avec Les Producteurs laitiers du Canada et Valacta sur la vie durable des vaches laitières.



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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Celebrating one year of activities!




Time goes by really fast and because of that, the best way to celebrate our first year of activities is working and presenting our results.  During the past February the 3rd, we had the opportunity to share the results of  our work  to special guests and delegates from the different institutions that conform the Chair of Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle.  It was a very interesting and important moment for us, to present  the progress we have made so far and to share our  goals and expectations.  
Thank you very much for this fantastic year, for your support your interest and  for reading our blog (more than 20.000 visits!).  Every day we start our work convinced that we can make it better and our effort  will help to improve the sustainability of the dairy production system and the welfare of dairy cows. 

To read our presentations click on our icon to download the PDF
  




 Here a brief summary of what happened last Friday, 


Valerie Bélanger  from Novalait  interviewing part of our team.  The video will be available on their website very soon!


 
Jessica St John and Liliana Fadul      


       Elise Shepley  and Elsa Vasseur


Professor Elsa Vasseur welcoming our guests and presenting the Validation of the cow activity collector manager for cows housed in tie-stalls barns (researcher: Sirine El Hamdaoui.)



Hector Delgado presenting the use of Clegg hammer measures as an indicator of welfare in tie-stall  Management System (researcher: Anthony Pic, mentorship: Hector Delgado).


Elise Shepley presenting the Validation of the ability the IceTag 3D pedometer to accurately determine number of steps in dairy cows when housed in tie-stall (researcher:Marianne Berthelot, mentorship: Elise Shepley).


Paul Stecko presenting the project  Manual and automatic tracking of cows within the confines of their stalls.  (researchers:  Elise Shepley and Jessica St John)


Jessica St John presenting her research, Does determining tie-rail height and forward position based on the neck line of cows in 
tie-stall have an effect on dairy cow welfare?


Véronique Boyer explaining her research Evaluation of  the impact of the stall configuration on the ease of movement of the dairy cow.



Manon Demaret  presenting the  project of the Optimization of a decision support tool for Quebec dairy producers, veterinarians and agricultural advisors (researcher: Géraud Plas-Debecker, mentorship:Hector Delgado)



Liliana Fadul presenting her research Recovery and analysis big data from computerized milking systems (ITS) for the development of performance indicators.


Santiago Palacio presenting his Ph. D. work:  Improving Dairy cow welfare in tie-stall barns: How effective are different knowledge transfer methods


Audrey St-Yves presenting her M. Sc. work The relationship between a reproductive biomarker in milk and the welfare status of dairy cows.  Project under supervision of Raj Duggavathi.


Mazen Bahadi presents his Ph.D. project,  The relationship between a reproductive biomarker in milk and the welfare status of dairy cows.  Project under supervision of Ashraf Ismail.


Monday, 23 January 2017

Meet our 2017 team!




Hello everyone, this year we'll continue with our interesting research work and also with  new projects.  To do so, we count with a fantastic group of people coming from all over the world to learn and make their contributions on cow animal welfare.  If  you want to know a bit more about who we are and about our interests, click on the link.

The 2017 Chair in Sustainable Life of Dairy Cattle Team




From left to right
First row: Véronique Boyer, Jessica St John, Elise Shepley, Tania Wolfe, Prof. Elsa Vasseur and Liliana Fadul. Second Row: Manon Demaret, Mélina Miron Castonguay, Géraud Plas-Debecker, Paul Stecko, Jasmine Savard and Emile Royer.  Third row: Hector Delgado,  Mathias Gagnon-Barbin and Santiago Palacio.