U of G project improves dairy cattle health, helps test new data portal

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Source: University of Guelph

University of Guelph researchers looking to reduce pregnancy losses in dairy cattle are also milking the benefits of a new data portal intended to improve livestock productivity in Ontario.

The dual projects came together at the Ontario Dairy Research Centre (ODRC) in Elora, Ont., which is owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and managed by the University of Guelph through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance.

For a year, Guilherme Madureira, a PhD candidate in U of G’s Department of Animal Biosciences, monitored more than 100 lactating dairy cows at the centre for feed consumption, body weight, milking, and activity and rumination.

He’s studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on inflammation, production efficiency and fertility in the animals.

At the same time, Dr. Lucas Alcantara, manager of research centre data, was completing implementation of the facility’s new data portal. This new platform allows researchers to securely store, retrieve and manage data recorded at the ODRC.

Madureira’s data set, collected manually through monitors and sensors at the centre, offered a valuable source of information to validate the new data portal. The portal connects to the same technologies that collected his information.

The portal data matched Madureira’s data set perfectly, demonstrating the accuracy and reliability of the recorded information. The match both validated his research and highlighted the platform’s effectiveness in maintaining data integrity.

“The portal proved to be a powerful tool for collecting and organizing the vast amounts of data generated during the study,” said Madureira.

He used advanced data management techniques to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data extracted from backups of the portal computers. Madureira cross-referenced the numbers and data sets with existing scientific literature and previous studies conducted at the facility.

This data set will provide valuable insights into the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on performance, health and reproduction of dairy cows—the main drivers of productivity in livestock farming, contributing to the competitiveness and sustainability of Canada’s producers.

Sensor data and advanced data management techniques are generating new insights in animal sciences. Researchers at the Ontario Dairy Research Centre and the Ontario Beef Research Centre, also located in Elora, can use the data portal to efficiently construct and analyze their data sets by selecting specific variables, animals or time frames.

The technology enables researchers to use data to drive innovation and improve production, said Madureira.

An Arrell Scholar supported by U of G’s Arrell Food Institute, he is conducting his research as part of a larger study led by Dr. Eduardo De Souza Ribeiro, a professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences within the Ontario Agricultural College.

The project is funded in part by the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and the University of Guelph. The Ontario Dairy Research Centre and Ontario Beef Research Centre are owned by ARIO and managed by the University of Guelph through the Alliance.