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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #432524

Research Project: Genomic Selection and Crossbreeding for the Health in Organic Dairy Cattle

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-21000-008-25-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2016
End Date: Aug 31, 2018

Our long term goals are to enhance disease resistance in organic dairy cattle through the adoption of optimal genomic selection and crossbreeding strategies and to understand the relationship of genotype and grazing behavior. This will enhance the appeal of organic dairy production by promoting greater profitability, improving animal welfare, and reduce frustrations associated with managing diseased animals.

To collect pasture behavior data, a bite recorder that is currently under validation in an ARS laboratory will be utilized. The bite recorder is capable of recording up to 4 separate piezoelectric sensors which detect movement (such as jaw, leg, or tail). These sensor signals are filtered and processed at a rate of 20 hertz (Hz) and stored on flash memory. The recorder contains a global positioning system (GPS) as well as a short range radio for transmitting the data wirelessly to a base station. A single 10 pin connector through the sealed enclosure is used for programming the central processing unit(CPU), charging, direct data retrieval and operation. The unit is equipped with an onboard temperature and barometric monitoring which can turn off the device in the event of overheating or an external leak into the hermetically sealed enclosure. The system weighs approximately 0.23 kilogram(kg) and has a battery life of about 18-48 hours depending on settings. The enclosure and piezoelectric circuitry can be mounted in a halter and is completely out of the animal’s field of view to minimize animal stress. Once the data is collected by the base station, or directly from the flash storage, the data can be further processed using existing grazing software. Recorders will be mounted on up to 50 cows with an equal number of recorders mounted per breed type (10 to 25 per breed depending on number of breeds/composites present at each site) at any time on one of the experimental farms for 3-5 consecutive days to collect continuous data under varying environmental conditions. Data collection will be repeated for various weather conditions and seasons as determined. Data will be collected over 2 years and will be linked to activity levels and rumination patterns at West Central Research and Outreach Center(WCROC). At all farms (experimental and commercial herds), horn fly counts will be conducted by photographing both sides of individual cows with digital cameras. Horn fly counts will be made from the digital images using Corel Photo-Paint 9 software (Pruett et al., 2003). A total of 7 observations will be made on each of the experimental farms and commercial farms in the Northeast between May and October of Years 1, 2 and 3. For the other commercial farms, less frequent visits will reduce this to twice per year for 2 years.