Dairy cattle research to address 'global issue that poses a serious threat to human health'

New federal funding for research into antimicrobial resistance in dairy cattle was announced Thursday morning in Charlottetown.

Antimicrobial use in livestock is linked to antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The research will lead to better management practices for dairy cattle. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

New federal funding for research into antimicrobial resistance in dairy cattle was announced Thursday morning in Charlottetown.

Ottawa promised 1.2 million dollars for five veterinary school across Canada to measure antimicrobial use and resistance in animal health — with $821,395 of those funds going to the Atlantic Veterinary College, the school leading the project. The research will study antibiotic use on farms, antibiotic resistance, and its impact on the health of dairy cattle. 

Dr. Javier Sanchez, a professor of epidemiology at AVC and co-principal investigator with Dr. Luke Heider on the antimicrobial resistance project, said increased resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, including bacteria that cause illness in humans, has been linked to antimicrobial use in livestock.

"So understanding the dynamic of these different bacteria and how they move in different farm environments will be important to stop the development of that resistance, and also stop the transmission to other populations," said Sanchez. 

Sanchez said once the research is complete, application of the findings won't be limited to cattle, and should be of use to livestock producers both nationally and internationally.  

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey also announced $148,000 for research into what calves need early in life to become successful milk producers as they grow. 

Dr. Greg Keefe and Dr. J McClure, are co-principal investigators on the calf longevity project.

He said farmers invest several thousand dollars into a calf before it starts producing milk — so the findings will be of use to dairy farmers everywhere. 

"Once you've put all this upfront investment in, if they only produce milk for one or two years, then you don't get the even the money back from the initial investment," said Keefe.

"Sometimes they don't reach the potential that the genes would say that they have. So we want to look at those baby calves and determine if there's something that we can do to help them attain their maximum genetic potential."

O'Keefe said AVC is receiving approximately $148,00 in federal funding for the 5-year project. 

The two projects are part of an $11.4 million dairy research cluster under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership's agriscience program.

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