Current Projects

Opportunities to diversify Ontario wool production and marketing (R16-5)

Applicant: University of Toronto - Dr. Nicole Klenk
Timeline: September 2016 to September 2019

  • needs assessment of the Ontario wool industry to develop communciation streams within the supply chain, and connect urban end users with rural wool producers
  • determining the challenges and opportunities connecting farmers with consumers in urban areas
  • stimulate the diversification of sheep product income, and preserve the cultural landscape and the vitality of Ontario's rural areas

Interim report - January 2018

Fibre requirements for market lambs (R16-4)

Applicant: University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus - Dr. Paul Luimes
Timeline: September 2016 to April 2019

  • to determine how varying dietary forage to concentrate ratios affect rumen function as measured by pH and lamb growth performance (feed intake, growth rate, feed efficiency, and feed cost per unit gain). It is expected to give more accurate information on what level of fibre is required to maintain growth rates in lambs and be better equipped to use by-products and grains more effectively.
  • Investigate which dietary measurements (crude protein, starch, fibre (percentages NDF, ADF, eNDF)) or particle size (Penn State Shaker system) best predicts rumen pH in lambs when fed varying dietary forages to concentrate ratios.
Improved accuracy in diagnosing pregnancy and predicting litter size in early gestation ewes; metabolomics analyses for Pen size kit development (R16-3)

Applicant: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry - Dr. Susan Markus
Timeline: August 2017 to December 2019

  • Identify and confirm predictive biomarkers of pre-breeding fertility, pregnancy and litter size in ewes. Targeted pregnancy diagnosis and litter size determination at <60d pregnancy.
  • Adapt an easy-to-use pregnancy kit requiring a few drops of blood, saliva, fecal water and/or vaginal mucus to predict pregnancy and litter size.
  • Support sustainable Canadian lamb production by improving flock and feedlot management and lamb survival by providing a more accurate tool for pregnancy predication/diagnosis with commerical application (local/international markets in major sheep producing countries).
  • Reduce cost of production by early detection of open ewes.
  • Address industry priorities by conducting high throughput sheep research with a unique national collaboration across Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
Agriculture producer mental health, mental health literacy, and emergency response (R16-2)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton
Timeline: May 2017 to December 2019

  • Characterize the lived experience of everyday occupational stresses, and those associated with agricultural crises (e.g. disease outbreaks), amongst agricultural workers (i.e. producers, support staff, veterinarians, government);
  • Determine agricultural workers' help-seeking behaviours, including motivations and barriers, during times of non-emergency and crisis;
  • Investigate agricultural workers' perceptions of current mental health supports and perceived ideals in mental health literacy and emergency response;
  • Develop, deliver, and evaluate an agricultural mental health literacy training program; and
  • Develop a mental health agricultural emergency response model.
Leveraging OMICS and systems biology to understand the genes and metabolic pathways associated with genetic resistance of sheep to gastrointestinal nematode parasite infections (R16-1)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Angela Canovas
Timeline: October 2016 to October 2019

  • Examine the transcriptome (measuring the gene expression) using high-throughput technologies by collecting samples from HIGH and MIDDLE stress responding and HIGH and LOW immune responding "tracer" sheep; these are novel phenotypes that are currently being investigated as a means to enhance parasite resistance by improving overall animal health.
  • Combine the resulting experimental - OMICS data (i.e. transcriptomics and gene networks) to focus on systems biology and bioinformatics approaches to identify metabolic pathways and genes (key regulator genes) affecting parasite resistance and these novel health phenotypes.
  • Combine this new information with data from other ongoing projects in order to develop more robust approaches for using genomic selection in industry breeding plans by selecting genetically resistant animals to H. contortus infection and have reduced levels of egg output that will lower pasture contamination during our grazing season.
  • Identify barriers to participation in genetic selection programs, and to develop and deliver information that increases producer understanding of what is available and the potential impacts on profitability. This will be a part of the OMAFRA-KTT program Accelerating the transition and transformation of research knowledge in genetics to enhance innovation in Canada's beef and sheep industries.
Investigation of immune response of sheep to gastrointestinal nematode infection under Ontario grazing conditions for the purposes of selection of genetically resistant animals (R15-3)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Paula Menzies
Timeline: April 2015 to August 2018

  • Describe the immune response of replacement ewes for gastrointestinal nematode parasite infection, particularly to Haemonchus contortus, over their first and second grazing seasons in Ontario.
  • Identify phenotypic variation in the immune response of these same animals to gastrointestinal nematode parasite infection, particulary H. contortus.
  • Identify the relationship between stress and general immune responses of sheep, and the immune response to the gastrointestinal parasitism, particularly to H. contortus.
Development of a vaccine to protect against Toxoplasma gondii (R15-2)

Applicant: University of Guelph - Dr. Sarah Wootton
Timeline: March 2015 to June 2018

  • To generate a recombinant ORFV expressing three different protective antigens (SAG1-ROP2-GRA2) from T. gondii;
  • To evaluate immune response in mice following immunization with a recombinant ORFV virus expressing the SAG1-ROP2-GRA2 antigens from T. gondii; and
  • To challenge rORFV/SAG1-ROP2-GRA2 immunized sheep with T. gondii oocytes and evaluate whether the vaccine can protect against tissue cyst formation.