The Open-Community Resource for Organic Animal Microbiome Education and Research Project (or open-ROAMER) is a USDA OREI funded research project aimed at launching microbiome research within the organic livestock community. Outcomes from the research will produce new, evidence-based tools to combat livestock diseases and production challenges affecting dairy health.

To demonstrate the utility of this resource, we will use mastitis – one of the most important diseases affecting dairy health – as a test case. For this test case, we will enroll 600 heifers in a study for the purpose of uncovering both the epidemiological (e.g., host and farm) and microbial risk factors associated with the development of mastitis, while also pursuing the development of a new microbial-based preventive for mastitis in heifers. In doing so, we will add to existing mastitis prevention protocols with new strategies and tools that will have immediate impacts on mastitis rates.

These research activities will be expanded to include an accessible, microbiome-based data repository and analytics pipeline that will be populated with the largest existing sequence database of the cow udder microbiome – including robust metadata, sequence-to-statistics workflows, and educational modules – that can be used by the organic livestock community for the purpose of driving their own microbiome-based discoveries.

The results from this research will provide organic livestock producers with long-term strategies for preventing, managing and treating mastitis, as well as new, data-driven tools that will enable producers to utilize both the complexity and power of the microbiome to improve dairy production, and most importantly, dairy health.