Congratulations, Alex!

Congratulations, Alex Tsai! 

Alex submitted his senior thesis, which means he’s completed his requirements for his practicum in Animal Biology. I’ve been mentoring Alex for the last 2 years, and I’m incredibly proud of the work he’s done, as well as extremely grateful for his contributions to my dissertation research.

His practicum investigated why dairy cows avoid getting their heads wet when using sprinklers that farmers provide to keep them cool in summer. The flow rate of the sprinklers (amount of water over time) is one aspect that may explain whether cows avoid getting their heads wet. To evaluate this idea, Alex watched video footage and quantified how often cows had normal vs. lowered head posture when they walked through water spray.

Exp. 1: Cows had to walk through a narrow testing alley with either no spray, 0.4 L/min spray, or 4.5 L/min spray. Alex found that cows lowered their heads 4 times more often when they walked through 4.5 L/min, compared to 0.4 L/min or no spray.

Exp. 2: Cows had either no spray, or sprinklers mounted over their feeding area. The sprinklers sprayed either 1.3 or 4.9 L/min, and these activated intermittently. This meant that when cows approached or left the feeding area, they could choose whether to walk through spray. Alex found that when cows walked through spray (either 1.3 or 4.9 L/min) to approach or leave the feeding area, they lowered their heads 2 to 3 times more often than when there was no spray.

Alex practicum summary

Putting these results together, cows lowered their heads much more often when walking through 1.3 L/min or more, compared to 0.4 L/min or no spray. Overall, Alex concluded that cows avoided getting their heads wet more when the spray was more “intense.”

He presented these results as a poster (pictured at top) titled “Dairy cows change head posture when walking through cooling sprinklers” at the U.C. Davis Undergraduate Research Symposium earlier this month. He got quite a few visitors interested in his project, and did a lovely job of explaining his work and answering questions.

Alex will be graduating from U.C. Davis in less than 2 weeks, and hopes to attend veterinary school* next. I am so proud of him! It has been a pleasure working with him, and I wish him all the best for continued success in the future.

(*Update, February 2016: Alex has been admitted to veterinary school, and will be returning to UC Davis this fall. Congratulations!)

JMC AMT

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