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Grant Funds Research on Dairy Production Efficiency

Cow's head (Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

(Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

Michigan State University in East Lansing has received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the genetics of cattle breeding to develop cows that can produce more milk on less feed. The grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is funded under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Animal science professor Mike VandeHaar will lead MSU’s part of the project that involves six other institutions in the U.S. and the Netherlands. VandeHaar and colleagues will focus on whether some cows are genetically predisposed to produce that milk with less feed. “If we find that feed efficiency is inherent in a cow’s DNA,” says VandeHaar, “it will improve our ability to sustainably produce the milk and dairy products that our growing population consumes.”

The team’s research aims to develop a feed-efficiency database on 8,000 genomically characterized Holstein cows, and determine the genetic architecture of feed efficiency to build a foundation for genomic selection of more efficient animals. The investigation is also expected to develop and implement genomic breeding tools to produce cows with enhanced feed efficiency, as well as practical support tools to improve whole-herd feed efficiency.

In addition, the project has a public outreach and education component. The grant includes funds for educating future leaders, voters, and consumers about dairy husbandry practices that promote feed efficiency and sustainability.

Read more: Old Type of Forage Grass Rediscovered for Dairy Farmers

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