Spotlight - John Roche

Name: John Roche
Title: Professor
Institution: University of Auckland

Can you tell us a bit about your background, and what your current research is focused on?
I specialized in ruminant nutrition and genetics as an undergraduate, pasture agronomy and farm systems research in my master’s, and my PhD was in nutritional biochemistry—evaluating the role of minerals in altering systemic acid–base balance and how this affected calcium homeostasis.

Postdoctorally, grazing systems, genotype × environment interactions, intake regulation, farm system econometrics, transition cow nutrition, and metabolic and immunological dysregulation during the transition period. Currently, I am the chief science adviser at the Ministry for Primary Industries (equivalent of USDA), providing independent science advice to the director-general and the minister across biosecurity, food safety, agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, and specializing on science into policy.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started? Do you have any predictions for the future?
The importance of the treble bottom line—economic productivity, environmental sustainability, and human capital. An understanding that lowly inherited genetic traits can be selected for or against with great success if they’re permanent and selection pressure is high enough. Recognition that failure to transition is often associated with prepartum physiological or behavioral changes and are true in low-yielding and high-yielding cows.

What has been your biggest challenge/greatest achievement in your career so far?
One of my greatest science challenges has been in getting statistically focused scientists to understand that grazing studies that are not spatially replicated are very valuable in understanding cause and effect in grazing systems. Almost 100 years of research is testimony to this. My greatest achievement was in developing a team of young, driven, highly capable scientists with an increasingly stellar publication record.

Can you share a particularly memorable experience or breakthrough in your research?
We were the first to infuse ghrelin and obestatin by continuous infusion into large mammals (dairy cows). We published one of the most highly cited reviews in JDS on the role of body condition score in production, fertility, health, and welfare.

What research areas within the field interest you most? Are there any particular trends of study that you are drawn to?
The role of exosomes in both diagnosing and curing metabolic dysregulation and maladaptation in transition dairy cows and how the downstream effects of success can lead to better outcomes for the cow in production and reproduction. The recognition that peripartum inflammation is a very important physiological item in transition success and failure. The role of heifer nutrition preweaning, and between weaning and breeding and breeding and calving, in heifer productivity and longevity.

What kind of papers would you like to attract more to JDS Communications? Do you have any advice for authors that would help them in deciding whether to submit?
I’d like to see more mini-reviews—succinct pieces of work that summarize a small topic well.

Why do we need a journal like JDS Communications today? Why should authors publish in JDS Communications?
It provides an outlet for small studies or simple analyses of data that are succinct. In the main JDS journal, experiments tend to be large and difficult to consume.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing the dairy industry, and how is JDS Communications part of the solution?
Environmental and animal welfare concerns are probably the greatest challenges, but not ignoring financial sustainability as well. JDS Communications could be a great outlet for smaller pieces of research focused on these important issues. These may be parts of bigger studies that are published in JDS, but by separating them out they become important in their own rights.