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Brigitte Lemay

Position/Title: M.Sc. (thesis)
Office: ANNU 032

I am currently a MSc by thesis student studying dairy nutrition under the supervision of Dr. Gail Carpenter and Dr. Trevor DeVries.  I completed my undergraduate here at Guelph in Zoology, followed by a graduate certificate in Ecosystem Restoration at Niagara College.  My decision to do a MSc evolved from several things.  My passion for animals and the environment was sparked at a young age growing up on the Welland River and around horses.  I grew up in a household very involved in research and consulting and began helping my mom out with her science & technology consulting business at the age of sixteen. My involvement in the equine industry is what sparked my interest in agriculture as I was exposed to the various farming operations in the area, including a dairy operation around the corner from the barn.       

My thesis research focuses on evaluating switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as an environmentally sustainable alternative to the use of wheat straw in lactating dairy cow rations.  One of the main criticisms faced by famers today is for the use of prime agricultural land for growing crops for animal feed. Switchgrass grows well on marginal land – land not suited for the production of conventional food crops, and has well documented environmental benefits including reducing soil erosion and increasing soil carbon pool.  To date my research has included a feed trial evaluating the impacts on the production, health and feeding behaviour of cows fed a ration containing either wheat straw or switchgrass.  Data analysis indicates that switchgrass does not affect milk production parameters (fat and protein) or yield, nor does it impact the health of the cow (assessed through blood metabolites) compared to wheat straw.  Switchgrass has different physical attributes than wheat straw, and so feeding behaviour is being investigated using data recorded by Insentec feeders.  Time of harvest affects the nutritional content of switchgrass and so my research will also include a second feed trial investigating the effects of switchgrass harvested at two different times compared to wheat straw.  We will also be looking at completing an on farm study to assess the applied potential of feeding switchgrass and some in-vitro work.

Once I complete my M.Sc I hope to start a Ph.D focusing on mitigating metabolic health issues in transition cows – defined as the 3 week period pre and post calving.  In my spare time I enjoy riding my horse, working in the barn, reading and finding new places to hike.  I am also the current GTA for the Introduction to Equine Management course (EQN*1010) which helps me stay current in the equine industry.