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Chairholder Profile

Anne Laarman

Anne Laarman

Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science
University of Alberta

Chair title

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Nutrition

Chair program

Industrial Research Chairs program

Role

Associate Chairholder since 2020

Summary

There are 960,000 dairy cows in Canada on 12,000 farms that collectively contribute $8 billion/year to Canada’s economy. One of the greatest challenges in dairy production is morbidity and mortality (disease and death) in young dairy calves. In a survey, Canadian dairy sector stakeholders reported that animal welfare was the highest management priority and calf diarrhea was the third-highest disease concern. In the first three months of life, 25% of calves are treated with antibiotics, and the mortality rate approaches 10%. During this time, calves transition from pre-ruminants to ruminants, undergoing the largest gut transition of their life. This transition must prepare calves for life post-weaning, when the rumen absorbs over 50% of the nutrients required to meet the animal’s energy needs.

The NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Nutrition examines the development of nutrient absorption capacity as calves transition from pre-ruminant to ruminant, and it studies how this development can be optimized through diet and management. In this research program, the objectives focus on the mechanisms that drive the transition to ruminant and how the development and transition of the rumen is integrated with the development and physiology of the intestines. Carrying out the research program will include collaborations between the Chair and researchers across North America with expertise in fields including nutrition, physiology, immunology and microbiology, to improve development of the calf gut. Furthermore, the Chair research program integrates well with other cutting-edge research under way at the Dairy Research and Technology Centre, including studies in the areas of nutrition, immunology, behaviour, microbiomics and genetics.

The research program is led by Dr. Anne Laarman, Assistant Professor in Dairy Nutrition and Physiology in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta. In addition to being Chair, he is the academic lead at the University of Alberta’s Dairy Research and Technology Centre and is involved in the leadership, organization and planning of the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar and the Pacific Northwest Animal Nutrition Conference. The Chair is supported by industrial partners Alberta Milk and SaskMilk, which represent western Canadian dairy farmers. The research objectives for the program are developed through ongoing consultation with the industrial partners.

The calf feeding strategies that are developed through this program will generate direct benefits for Canadian dairy farmers and the Canadian dairy industry through overall improvements in the management of calves as they transition from pre-ruminant to ruminant. By improving this transition, calves will be better able to meet their nutrient absorption and health needs as they are weaned, and producers will be provided with the information to develop more successful early life management programs for their calves. As representatives of dairy farmers in western Canada, the industry partners benefit from this research by providing valuable tools for their stakeholders to implement new strategies on the farm. This research provides additional tools for the dairy sector to tackle morbidity and mortality rates in the industry, thereby improving animal health and welfare and farm efficiency. Demonstrating commitment to improving animal health and welfare is an important factor in maintaining and improving Canadians’ acceptance and appreciation of our dairy sector.

Partners

  • Alberta Milk
  • SaskMilk

Contact information

Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science
University of Alberta

Email: anne.laarman@ualberta.ca

Website:
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