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Dairy industry gives award to Aarhus University

Annually the Danish Dairy Board awards the Dairy Prize to a company or person who has taken a significant, extraordinary or courageous initiative with direct or indirect impact on the dairy industry. In 2017, the board has chosen to reward Aarhus University this prize for the university’s research in genetic background of the cows and its influence on the milk’s composition and quality.

[Translate to English:] Professor Lotte Bach Larsen, adjunkt Nina Aagaard Poulsen, lektor Bart Buitenhuis, post doc. Ulrik Sundekilde og post doc. Vivi Gregersen modtog på vegne af Milk Genomics-projektet Mælkeprisen 2017. Foto: Nina Hermansen

The Dairy prize was presented at the Danish Dairy Board’s annual general meeting at Agro Food Park on Thursday 18 May. The director of the Danish Dairy Board, Jørgen Hald Christensen, emphasized that the board wishes to reward the significant work that was carried out by scientists from Aarhus University regarding the coherence in milk and genes. 

It all started with the major Danish – Swedish project Milk Genomics and has since led to an entire platform of projects within this area, where especially the Department of Food Science and the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics have worked closely together with the dairy industry and the cattle breeding business:

-          The foundation for the project is a very large number of samples from Danish and Swedish cows. There are similar projects in other countries but this project has caused international acknowledgement and sensation because of its very large amount of data used. Therefore, we now have a considerable knowledge that just needs to be implemented out on the farms, says Jørgen Hald Christensen at the presentation.

Professor at the Department of Food Science, Lotte Bach Larsen, has been head of the Danish part of the project, and she is very pleased to be able to share the Dairy Prize with her colleagues across university departments:

-          It is a great honor and very wonderful to be recognised for the work we have accomplished. We constantly strive to align our dairy research to the industry’s demands for new knowledge and new technologies. To get this recognition from an end-user makes it even more motivating, says Lotte Bach Larsen.

A helping hand to the farmer

In this large project, scientists have analysed milk, tissue, and blood samples from more than 1200 Danish and Swedish dairy cows. On this basis, they have examined the milk for specific qualities among others its ability to coagulate, which has crucial importance in cheese manufacturing.

The scientists found that Danish Jersey cows produced milk with a high coagulation ability. On the opposite, 16 % of the milk from Swedish Red cows was unable to coagulate – and seen from a producer’s point of view, this is an alarmingly high percentage, which may cause considerable economic loss in relation to cheese production output.

Read more: Cow genes are essential to your cheese 

Furthermore, all the milk samples were profiled in order to give the scientists a detailed picture of gross  milk components as fat and protein compounds and lesser known as e.g. metabolites.

The composition of milk was also linked to genetic background.

-          ‘By including this kind of knowledge in the breeding strategies of dairy cattle, we hope, in the end, to be able to help the farmer select the cows that produce the best milk for e.g. cheese production or with specific qualities in relation to differentiation of the milk for specific products. And it is nice to know that the industry appreciates the kind of research we do’, says Lotte Bach Larsen.

Over all, the project has led to many spin off projects, both in Denmark and Sweden, which aim to bring the results closer to the end-users.

With this prize comes 25,000 DKK.

Further information

The Danish Dairy Board’s Initiative Prize – the Dairy Prize – has the purpose of promoting and rewarding enterprise, innovation and development in Danish dairy industry and related industries. The Dairy Prize is awarded annually in connection with the Danish Dairy Board’s general annual meeting. With this prize comes 25,000 DKK.