Sometimes with research you have to start back at the basics to make sure the building blocks of the information is accurate. One masters student at UW River Falls is doing just that. Shawna Sigl grew up on a dairy farm in Seymour, WI. She’s using her dairy background to dig deep on two important data sets. The first is looking at common practices across Minnesota and Wisconsin for calving cows. The second set of data is looking closely at cow and calf behavior when housed together.
There are many options for how to house dry and calving cows, but there hasn’t been a defined effort to actually see which practices farms are actually using. Having that data will help future research by having a better understanding of what is and isn’t being used on dairy farms. Sigl says that her survey looking at dry cow housing was recently completed and she is now digging into the data.
The next part of the research Sigl is working on is using video to monitor behaviors between dairy cows and calves on a farm that houses cows with their calves for the first weeks of life. The research is looking at overall behavior rather than focusing on specific metrics for maternal ability. Sigl recognizes that there is potential for this research to become a hot button topic but says that understanding the behavior is an important piece of animal welfare.