More than $2.5M in new funding to support Michigan animal agriculture research, outreach

This year, research and outreach covers a wide range of topics, including management of dairy cattle diseases, improving dairy cattle fertility, controlling tar spot and vomitoxin in silage corn, and developing honey bee health protection tools.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — With more than $2.5 million, the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture (M-AAA) will invest in 23 new research and outreach projects led by Michigan State University researchers and MSU Extension educators.

The funding is available through the Fiscal Year 2023-24 Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) budget.
The M-AAA began in 2014 and is a partnership among MDARD, Michigan animal agriculture organizations and MSU to advance the Michigan animal agriculture economy.
"Animal agriculture faces many short- and long-term challenges, including managing infectious diseases, improving animal welfare and bolstering environmental sustainability," said James Averill, associate director of MSU AgBioResearch and one of the leaders of M-AAA. "We appreciate the continued support from the Michigan Legislature and our M-AAA partners as we work to help Michigan producers."
This year, research and outreach covers a wide range of topics, including management of dairy cattle diseases, improving dairy cattle fertility, controlling tar spot and vomitoxin in silage corn, and developing honey bee health protection tools.
"Investing in research to address key issues in animal agriculture like the current highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak or the impacts of regenerative agriculture practices is essential to the long-term viability of Michigan animal agriculture," said Tim Boring, MDARD Director. "MDARD is proud to be a partner with the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture to address those challenges for future generations of Michigan farmers."
M-AAA projects are either one or two years in duration and are submitted in one of three categories: applied research, extension or seed funding. Project leads are required to submit annual progress reports and final summaries to M-AAA leaders.
Examples of 2024 projects:
• Adam Lock, a professor in the Department of Animal Science, will work to improve the utilization of high oleic acid soybeans in dairy cattle diets. Previous M-AAA research from Lock showed that a diet with high oleic acid soybeans increases milk fat and protein yields in milk without altering body weight. This makes them a very attractive feedstuff containing quality protein and fat that can be grown on farms in Michigan. Previous research focused on mid-lactation cows, but the new project will explore the transition and early lactation periods to determine how high oleic acid soybeans can be used most effectively to generate the desired milk fat and protein gains, while minimizing body weight loss during early lactation.

• Richard Pursley, a professor in the Department of Animal Science, seeks to boost dairy herd longevity by improving fertility of multiparous cows — those on their second or more lactation. Pursley noted that more than 50% of cows leave the herd prior to their third lactation, and multiparous cows have a greater likelihood of pregnancy loss. This project will evaluate the effect high-fertility bulls have on these cows. If pregnancy losses are reduced and multiparous cows stay in the herd, producers should see greater average milk production while saving on replacement costs and operational efficiency.

• Meghan Milbrath, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, will develop honey bee protection tools for bacterial diseases. Honey bees are vital to Michigan agriculture, producing more than 5 million pounds of honey each year and providing pollination for crops. Several widespread diseases threaten honey bees, particularly two bacterial diseases: American foulbrood and European foulbrood. Objectives of the project include developing and sharing beekeeper resources on bacterial diseases, developing a training protocol for dog detection of bacterial disease-infected hives, and educating beekeepers on how the detection services dogs provide can benefit their operations.
For a complete list of 2024 funded projects, visit canr.msu.edu/maaa/projects.
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Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientists discover dynamic solutions for food systems and the environment. More than 300 MSU faculty conduct leading-edge research on a variety of topics, from health and climate to agriculture and natural resources. Originally formed in 1888 as the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU AgBioResearch oversees numerous on-campus research facilities, as well as 15 outlying centers throughout Michigan. To learn more, visit agbioresearch.msu.edu.

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