Prof. Bonnie Mallard, a genetics-related immune-response researcher at the University of Guelph, has won a Governor-General Award for her work.
She will receive the award May 23 during a ceremony at Rideau Hall, Ottawa, to honour six researchers.
“This is a wonderful and immensely-deserved honour for Professor Mallard,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).
“Professor Mallard’s work epitomizes our approach to research at the University of Guelph: making cutting-edge, fundamental discoveries and creating innovations that improve life and livelihoods.,” he said.
However, I recall interviewing her more than 20 years ago when the bureaucrats at University of Guelph were giving her a hard time gaining the financial and other support she needed. She and Dr. Brian McKersie had to be stubborn and devoted to get what they required.
“It is a real honour to have been nominated and I feel very privileged to have won,” said Mallard.
She worked with colleagues in U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College and Ontario Agricultural College’s Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, and with researchers from across Canada.
The patented high immune response (HIR™) technology enables breeders to identify and breed cows with better immunity to disease, especially mastitis, metritis and pneumonia.
These diseases cost livestock producers millions of dollars every year, and are the primary cause of antibiotic use.
Between 20 and 30 per cent of variation in immune response stems from inherited factors rather than from husbandry practices such as housing or nutrition, Mallard said.
“The advantage of the inherited factor is that these genes can be identified and used to select future offspring with more robust immunity.”
She worked with companies including Semex Canada to create a test for routine use on Canadian dairy farms.
HIR™ genetics are now available globally and a test is also under investigation for swine, horses and other species.
Besides improving animal health and milk quality, better breeding leads to fewer antibiotic uses on farms, which helps improve land and water quality, Mallard said.
“More sustainable agriculture, increased food security: it’s all about making this a better planet not only for animals but for consumers,” she said.