Study aims to inform dairy industry best practice
Research to examine gut microbiomes from calves
Goundbreaking research to enhance the health, welfare and milk production of dairy herds is being carried out at Hartpury University in Gloucester.
Aisling Carroll, who lectures in Animal Science, will examine gut microbiomes from dairy calves over a four-year period to assess the impact of routine farm management.
The project will assess if the use of a probiotic from birth to post-weaning in dairy calves can support and/or safeguard against stress-related microbiome variations during key management events.
Aisling Carroll said: “High standards of neonatal calf management are vital for health, welfare, and productivity. Reducing dairy calf mortality and supporting the improvement of calf health and welfare would be a notable positive contribution to the sector, but research informing strategic management intervention to support this is currently lacking.
“This research will examine the impact of management events, such as grouping, housing, disbudding and weaning on faecal bacterial communities of dairy calves to understand the concurrent impact on development and health.
“GIT microbiome development and influence of management events will be compared against health, welfare and production parameters of heifers that progress into dairy production.
“Assessing bacterial community structures is important in order to establish the biological effects of management events on dairy calves and to identify potential modulation points in the microbiota to improve health, welfare and production.
“These points can act as an innovative tool, supporting continuous calf monitoring on farms to reduce morbidity and mortality, directing strategic management intervention.”
Her findings will provide guidance to dairy farmers and vets on best practice moving forward.
The research will benefit from access to Hartpury’s commercial farm, Home Farm, which includes 250 dairy youngstock, 200 Holstein milking cows and 50 Guernsey cattle, as well as smart farming technologies in Hartpury’s Agri-Tech Centre.
All findings will be communicated to industry bodies via the Agri-Tech Centre at Hartpury and research partners.
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