July 2018 recap

Here’s a retrospective on the month of July:

Marshfield Agricultural Research Station

July started off with a visit to the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station (MARS), where the UW-Madison heifer-raising facility is located.

Nancy Esser, the superintendent and herd manager, showed off the impressive research facilities, which include dozens of pens with heifers housed in social groups of 8 animals. This is a researcher’s dream, because we can get good sample sizes by assigning pens to different, replicated experimental treatments, while keeping animals in their social groups.

Nancy expressed an interest in providing grooming brushes for the heifers, and we talked about trying out a low-cost solution: scrub brushes from the hardware store, just like we used in our studies at UBC last summer. A couple months later, I was so excited to find out that the heifers at MARS are now enjoying their new grooming devices! Recently, there has been a lot of press about new research showing that grooming is an important behavioral need for cattle, so it’s heartening to see our heifers have an opportunity to use brushes.MARS


The rest of July was a flurry of preparation for our lab’s first experiment (more in the August recap) and writing a grant for research funding from the USDA: “Combating heat stress in dairy cattle using multi-modal real-time sensing and machine learning,” led by Dr. Younghyun Kim from UW-Madison Electrical and Computer Engineering, and with Dr. Chris Choi from UW-Madison Biological Systems Engineering.

ISAE Congress

July wrapped up with the 51st ISAE Congress in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

I serve as Communications Officer for the Society, so for me the week started off with a Council meeting. This year, I did not present an abstract, so the rest of the week I was free to enjoy hearing about the latest science (see our twitter feed for highlights), judging the student poster competition, catching up with international colleagues, and taking in beautiful PEI.

UBC AWP 2018

Former and current members of the UBC Animal Welfare Program at the 2018 ISAE Congress

A high point was celebrating the awarding of an Honorary Fellowship to one of my mentors, Dr. Joy Mench, with whom I now serve on Sysco’s Animal Welfare Advisory Council.


Former and current members of the UC-Davis Center for Animal Welfare, including (from left) Dr. Van Os, Dr. Cassandra Tucker (my PhD advisor), and Dr. Joy Mench (2018 ISAE Honorary Fellow)

PEI is very scenic and we saw a lot of pastured dairy cows while we were out and about (although not on the beach), which certainly enhanced the landscape, in our opinion!


Dr. Catie Cramer (recent UW-Madison PhD and now a postdoc at The Ohio State U), Dr. Van Os, Dr. Emily Miller-Cushon (Assistant Professor at U Florida, Gainesville) at Cow’s creamery in Charlottestown, PEI


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