Who let the cows out?

My colleague Anne-Marieke Smid, a Ph.D. student in the UBC Animal Welfare Program, is nearing the end of a study she’s conducting. She is housing lactating cows in groups of 12 at a time. They have deep sand-bedded freestalls indoors and get access to an outdoor area.

In one of her previous studies, she gave cows access to a pasture overnight, but Anne-Marieke is also interested in understanding how cows respond to other types of outdoor options besides grass. In another study, she offered them an outdoor sand pack overnight. Now Anne-Marieke is providing cows with 24-hour access to a bark mulch pack, and she collected data in both summer and winter.

We’ve been working on a poster about these studies to present at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar next month (March 7-10) in Red Deer, Alberta. If you’re going to be there, please come by the UBC Dairy Education & Research Centre booth to meet us and we’ll tell you all about it! (*Update: see here for a recap of the meeting!)

This morning, it was time for a new group of cows to go outdoors for the first time and get used to the bark mulch pack. Last week we got a great deal of snow and there was still quite a bit on the ground, but today was a warmer day. Check out the photos below to see what the cows thought!

01-first-cows-come-out

Anne-Marieke released pairs of cows at a time from the barn

02-checking-out-snow

They started sniffing around to check out the snow…

03-checking-out-pack-and-snow

…and the bark mulch pack

04-electric-fence

They had to figure out that there was an electric fence around the pack

08-all-out

As more cows came out…

07-trotting

…things started getting frisky!

05-getting-frisky

Some of the cows started bucking…

06-more-play

…and kicking!…

00-rearing-wide

…and even rearing! WOOOHOOO!!!! (my luckiest photo of the day)

09-whole-group

Here are all 12 girls outside on the bark mulch pack. Don’t they look like kids at recess?

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