Dairy industries world-wide face the challenge of producing the highest quality products under a system that must maximize production, not simply through judicious use of inputs, but through an understanding of the dairy cow's nutritional and physiological needs, tempered by Society's expectations of environmentally-friendly systems, animal welfare and quality of life, and economic accessibility.
The dairy industry -specifically its producers- need fundamental research to help them adapt to new regulations while maintaining high levels of productivity, and understanding the practical reasons for reaching targets of compliance.
The chain in Sustainable life of dairy cattle will carry out research to provide recommendation on appropriate welfare-management practices. It will further demonstrate the advantages of said practices to an animal's productivity and longevity, to the producer's goals of dairy production, and to the promotion of the industry to consumers as forward thinking sustainable, and humane process. The proposed research has been divided in three main topics, cow comfort and management, cow longevity and environment and society.
Theme 1: Cow comfort and Management
The first research theme will focus on producers’ needs to provide a suitable environment for future compliance requirements; another goal is to better understand the needs for animal comfort. As current research on comfort is mostly with free stall systems, it is relevant, to optimize recommendations, to carry out projects with tie-stall systems which are predominant in Quebec and in Canadian dairies. An example of research question is: Could some farming practices compensate for deficient stall configuration?
Theme 2: Cow longevity
The second research theme will focus on the sustainability of the industry in terms of long - term measures of profitability and survival of animals in the herds. Replacement animals and cows in production will be under scrutiny. Projects of this theme will benefit from data collected on the commercial farms and Valacta database. An example of research question is: What is the relationship between rearing and cow longevity?
Theme 3: Environment and Society
The third research theme will broaden the perspective on international standards, life cycle analyses, and consumer acceptability. We will validate that the measures to improve cow welfare and longevity are not in contradiction with the overall sustainability (environmental, economic and social) of dairy farming. An example of research question is: Could improving comfort may conflict with improving the environmental footprint?