I recently attended the 35th annual Western Canadian Dairy Seminar in Red Deer, Alberta. It was a big year, with over 900 attendees! I had a great time meeting producers and discussing their concerns about and ideas for improving cow comfort. I also chatted with some folks about thinking outside the box (but inside the litter box?) regarding cattle waste management. (Not to mention experiencing some “real” Canadian winter…!)
About a dozen of us from UBC’s Animal Welfare and Reproduction programs represented the UBC Dairy Research & Education Centre. We created posters highlighting the take-home messages we’ve learned across some of our recent studies.
The topics presented by the Animal Welfare Program were:
- Colostrum management for calves
- Benefits of group housing for calves
- Transition cow management
- Outdoor access for lactating cows
Anne-Marieke Smid and I created the poster on outdoor access for lactating cows, which is based on her PhD work that is currently in progress. I recently posted some great photos from her study here.
The cows at UBC are normally housed indoors in a freestall barn with deep-bedded sand. Previous research has shown this to be the favorite indoor bedding type for cows. When Anne-Marieke gave the cows access to pasture, they spent 90% of the night outside.
However, giving cows access to pasture is not always feasible. Anne-Marieke also offered them access to outdoor packs with either sand or bark mulch covering the ground. So far, she has found that they spend about half of the night outdoors. She is now looking into how the amount of time they spend outside is influenced by weather conditions. Check out our poster for photos and graphs, or read Anne-Marieke’s interview with The Western Producer.