Researcher exploring dietary strategies to help cattle deal with summer heat
Reducing heat stress in dairy cattle is the focus of Dr. Gregory Penner’s (PhD) new project, which he has received $131,000 in funding to undertake.
The AgBio professor and USask Centennial Enhancement Chair will investigate dietary strategies to help dairy cattle deal with summer heat.
The funding is from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) Alliance Grants programme.
It encourages university researchers and partner organisations to collaborate in generating new knowledge and accelerating the adoption of research findings to benefit Canada.
Cattle respond to heat stress with sweating, and open-mouth panting—using respiration to dissipate heat—and lose saliva.
As well, their body response is to increase blood flow to the ears and other extremities and reduce the flow to the gastrointestinal tract, increasing the acidity of stomach contents.
Cation supplementation replenishes salt lost through sweating and encourages drinking, with the water helping to cool down animals. The carbonate acts to reduce stomach acid and the risk of gut disorders.
He said that research is “sparse” on assessing the separate roles that cations and carbonates play—especially since farmers often use sodium bicarbonate in the cows’ diet during summer.
Therefore, he added that this leaves open the question of whether it is the sodium or the carbonate that is most effective.
Industry partner, Papillon Agriculture Company, owned by calcium – and manganese-carbonate producer, Inter-Rock Minerals, is providing $62,800 in cash and in-kind support.
Papillon wishes to understand the role its carbonate feed products play in mitigating cattle heat stress.
Meanwhile, SaskMilk, which is contributing $23,500 in cash and in-kind support, is the other industry partner.
“We are specifically focusing on whether cations (sodium and potassium) or dietary buffers (carbonates) help to mitigate heat stress,” Penner said.
How will he conduct the research?
At USask’s Rayner Dairy and Research Facility, researchers will feed cows a specific dietary supplement.
Researchers will study the following variables to see if feed strategies help mitigate heat stress:
- Animals’ core body temperature;
- Feed intake;
- Milk production;
- Indicators for inflammation.
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