Researching biodiversity through the entire ecosystem of dairy cows

In an increasingly global and changing world, humans need to understand the relationship between our environment and the food we eat.

This project seeks to understand how cattle, one of humankind's most important livestock species, are impacted by the switch from conventional confinement dairy production to a pasture-based management system.

Research Abstract

Cattle grazing on biodiverse pasture

Humans are in the midst of an epidemiologic transition, in which globalization and ecological disruption are associated with newly emerging infectious diseases as well as reemerging infections previously thought to be under control. As an important livestock species in frequent close contact with humans, cattle may be similarly affected by ecological changes; they also represent a potential source of zoonotic disease. Our proposed research examines the impact of switching from conventional confinement dairy production (low diversity) to pasture-based management (higher diversity) on microbial diversity and composition, cattle rumen and udder health, and milk quality and composition. This cutting-edge work represents the first step in a long-term collaborative research project that will allow the four principal investigators to embark on a new and little studied field: the relationship between biodiversity and cattle health, the role of competitors and predators in disease regulation, and the relationship between habitat structure and cattle well being. The work, which includes an international workshop held at UVM, has the potential to alter farmer and rancher perceptions of wildlife and native habitat, reducing the ecological impact of livestock rearing in Vermont and globally.

To learn more about the project

 

Interested in knowing more about the Center's work or do you have a question we haven't answered here?  Contact us via email or  802-656-5459 and we'll do our best to help.

Woodcut of a farm with people gathering produce and cows grazing

Contact

  • Joe Roman, Research Assistant Professor, Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources Fellow, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, 802-656-0517 or jroman@uvm.edu
  • John Barlow, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Science, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 802-656-1395 or john.barlow@uvm.edu
  • Juan P. Alvez, Pasture Program Technical Coordinator, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 802-656-6116 or jalvez@uvm.edu
  • Melissa Bainbridge, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Animal Science, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 802-656-5489 or
    melissa.bainbridge@uvm.edu
  • Jana Kraft, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Science, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 802-656-5489 or jkraft@uvm.edu

Sign Up for the Center's Calendar or Newsletter

Make a Donation in Support of the Center's Work

 

Funder

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

UVM REACH Grant

Recent Headlines