Here is a belated recap for the month of April:
As UW-Madison’s new extension specialist in dairy animal welfare, I’ve been eager to meet Wisconsin producers, talk with them about their approaches on animal welfare, and see their operations in action.
When I first moved to Wisconsin from California this spring, I asked some of my new colleagues what they found surprising when they first came here from out of state. They said they were amazed at just how nice Wisconsinites can be.
Since then, about a dozen family-owned dairies have proven this to be true and welcomed me onto their farms. Their herd sizes ranged from under 100 to the thousands, some were freestalls and others tiestalls, most milked in a parlor but some used robotics, and I saw a wide a variety of management strategies. My visits have been a reminder that there are so many different ways to dairy successfully.
My goal was to meet people and learn about their decisions around housing, management, and animal care – not to do formal animal welfare evaluations. But I saw and heard several common themes that made me happy – and hopefully their cattle too. During my farm visits, we’ve had a lot of good discussions about what animal welfare means, some of the issues the dairy industry currently faces, and some of the challenges ahead.
On April 19, I had my first “official” outing as an extension specialist, delivering dual programs organized by UW Extension at Alma Center and Eau Claire, where I talked about “Science to understand best practices for promoting dairy cattle welfare.” The groups were small but engaged, and we had some good discussions about what animal welfare means. I did an 8-minute interview with WAXX Radio, which you can listen to here.
Paper featured on PLoS homepage
Our recently published paper about the motivation of feedlot finishing cattle for roughage in their diet was featured on the front page of the newly redesigned website for the journal, PLoS ONE. It was a treat to see the value of the work promoted by the journal!
Temple Grandin visit
On April 26, the Saddle & Sirloin Club, UW-Madison’s student animal science organization, invited Dr. Temple Grandin to speak. I appreciated when Dr. Grandin pointed out that “accomodat[ing] highly motivated behavioral needs” and giving animals opportunities for “positive emotions” are important factors when thinking about the welfare of farm animals.