Research at the University of Guelph and University of Alberta that will use genomics to improve feed efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions has received $10.3 million in support.

The project headed by U of G adjunct professor Filippo Miglior and Alberta professor Paul Stothard was one of 11 nationwide to receive funding earlier this month from Genome Canada’s large-scale applied research project competition “Genomics and Feeding the Future.”

The U of G/U of A initiative received the largest allocation; the $10.3 million includes support from research and industry partners.

“This project addresses the ongoing demands of a growing population, and the need for Canada’s dairy cattle industry to maintain global competitiveness,” said John Livernois, associate vice-president (research services).


Miglior, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, and Stothard will lead a team that will study genomics-based approaches for selecting dairy cattle with the genetic traits needed for more efficient feed conversion and lower methane emissions.

Currently, it’s difficult and expensive to collect the data required for such selection, the researchers say.

But utilizing the latest genomic approaches will make collection and assessment easier and cheaper. The result will be the development of cattle that will carry these important traits.

It’s estimated that the genetic improvements will add $100 million annually to the contribution that the dairy industry already makes to Canada’s gross domestic product. Currently, the industry adds about $16.2 billion each year.

Farmers will save money on feed costs (the largest single expense in milk production), improving the international competitiveness of Canada’s dairy industry.

As well, the dairy industry’s environmental footprint will be reduced, as feed-efficient animals produce less manure, lowering methane emissions.

“We are very excited about this joint project,” Miglior said. “Strong collaboration between industry organizations and world-renowned research partners will ensure broad and comprehensive application of our findings, not only benefiting Canada, but also contributing to global food security through sustainable low-impact dairying.”

Several industry organizations and international research partners will be involved. Miglior also heads research and strategic development for the Canadian Dairy Network.