Marina von Keyserlingk

Marina von Keyserlingk

Faculty of Land and Food Systems
The University of British Columbia

Chair title

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Cattle Welfare

Chair program

Industrial Research Chairs program


Senior Chairholder since 2008

Related Chair

Daniel Weary


UBC’s Animal Welfare Program was created as an NSERC Industrial Research Chair in 1997 and has since grown to become the world’s leading research group working on dairy welfare. The current IRC, the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Cattle Welfare, builds upon these strong foundations to produce science-based recommendations that allow dairy producers to promote the health, welfare and productivity of their cattle. This funding helps maintain our ability to serve as the world’s leading research unit working in this area, and strengthens the position of the Canadian dairy industry in addressing the increasingly important issues around social sustainability of farm practices.

This Chair has played an integral role in the Canadian dairy industry. For example:

  • Our research has provided a foundation for major advancements in the creation of science-based standards for animal welfare. Our group published the original research demonstrating that the routine practice of amputating the tails of dairy cows does not result in improved cleanliness, health or milker safety. On the basis of this work, and later confirmatory research, Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle now prohibits routine tail docking. Similarly, our group conducted some of the first research to show the feasibility and importance of pain management during horn disbudding in dairy calves, and the Code of Practice now requires pain mitigation for this procedure. The implementation of science-based standards enables the dairy industry to maintain consumers’ confidence and thus retain markets that might otherwise be lost due to the erosion of public trust.
  • Our research has also helped develop methods to allow producers to more effectively evaluate the condition of their animals, and thus be better prepared for quality assurance programs. Our approach to farm animal welfare assessments includes a benchmarking component that provides a streamlined and feasible approach for animal welfare assessment, allowing producers to more rapidly and effectively modify management to improve these outcomes. This work has served as a foundation for tools now used in the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Pro-Action assessment protocols.
  • Our students, postdocs and visiting researchers are now playing increasingly important roles in advancing data-driven guidance and solutions for dairy cattle welfare issues. Creating a generation of industry experts with highly sophisticated training in dairy cattle welfare may well be the Chair’s greatest long-term accomplishment. Since 2014 we have trained more than 100 highly qualified individuals who will now go on to help provide service and leadership on this issue.

Proposed work for the 2019-2024 mandate falls under four themes:

  1. Calf and heifer rearing
  2. Cow health and lameness
  3. Housing facilities and management
  4. Painful procedures

In each of these themes, our research group already has an international reputation, and we have piloted much of the foundational work in the area. Building upon this foundation, we have identified areas where there is an urgent need for new applied research.

We will take advantage of our robust and longstanding relationships with local producers by conducting much of the proposed work on commercial dairy farms. This on-farm component will help ground our studies in commercial reality and ensure that any findings are of practical importance to the industry. We also propose a series of on-farm intervention studies that will allow us to document how producers respond to, and benefit from, different approaches to educational interventions. Finally, we describe experimental work that entails a level of disruption too great to impose on a commercial farm, and where the requirements for control and monitoring are better suited for our Dairy Education and Research Centre located in Agassiz, British Columbia.

Marina (Nina) von Keyserlingk accepted an academic appointment in the Animal Welfare Program in 2002, and has been a NSERC Industrial Research Chair holder since 2008. Her research focuses on the scientific assessment of animal welfare, with a special focus on individual differences, early detection of illness, milk fed calves and housing. She works tirelessly as an educator on farm animal care, and the impact of her research can now be seen on farms around the world.


  • Dairy Farmers of Canada
  • British Columbia Dairy Association
  • Saputo
  • Intervet Canada Corporation
  • BC Cattle Industry Development Fund
  • Alberta Milk
  • Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health
  • Semex
  • Manitoba Milk
  • CanWest DHI
  • SaskMilk

Contact information

Faculty of Land and Food Systems
The University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia



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