Hello y’all my name is Kassidy and I am a second year Animal and Veterinary Science major with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine. During my time as a UMADCow student I have done many heat watches. Heat watch is the 20 minute time period where the cows are observed for any signs of heat. Heat also known as estrus is when an animal becomes most fertile. It is important for us to note when a cow comes into heat because in order for a dairy farm to operate, we need calves to be born.
How do you detect heat? The #1 sign that a cow is in heat is when they are mounting one another. This is not the only sign and some cows that are in heat will not mount one another. Chin resting is another sign of heat and this is where one cow rests its head on top of another cow. Sometimes cows will head butt one another and yes, this is another sign of heat. Not only do we look for these actions in the cows but we also look for any vaginal discharge. All of this gets noted on the heat watch sheets and gets sent to Witter Farm’s herdsperson Patricia. Now you might be wondering what she does with this information? Patricia uses this important information to help her determine which cows to breed. This helps keep our farm up and running!
Besides, there is usually a nice view in the morning :)
When most people think of a dairy cow they think of a black and white spotted cow, namely a Holstein like we have here at the farm. But Holsteins aren’t always black and white. Sometimes they are red and white instead!
So, why don’t we see more red Holsteins?
Red Holsteins were fairly common in Europe where the Holstein originated but when dairy farmers in the US started importing Holsteins they mostly imported black animals. The red coat color is recessive, meaning black cows can carry the gene, so these animals and their offspring could give birth to red calves later on. When these calves were born they rarely made it to the milking parlor because these red individuals didn’t fit the “mold” and for years the Holstein Friesian Association did not accept any red cows and actively sought to eliminate these red animals. However, thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated farmers who saved these red calves this gene never died out and in 1970 the Holstein Friesian Association began accepting red animals. However, the red gene is still relatively scarce.
Here at Witter we don’t have any red cows. However, a red bull called Rager-Red (seen in picture) is the sire of several cows here at the farm, including Madeline and Ragu. This means that someday we could have a little red calf born!
Hello! My name is Sadie Hartt and I am a junior at UMaine, majoring in Pre-Vet. In addition to our usual milking and chores, the students in UMADCOWS participate in something called Herdsperson as well. Different types of Herdsperson include different duties, and this week I was the Production Herdsperson, and one of my responsibilities was washing the cow’s tails. We do this for several reasons, but mainly to preserve the health and wellbeing of the cows and the milkers. Several tools are used, including a comb, a scrubber, a curry comb, and good ol’ shampoo and water.
Depending on how dirty they are, it can take about 5-10 minutes per cow. Here is a fabulous before and after of Ponyo!
A cattle hobble is an instrument used on dairy cows to help prevent slippage and subsequently muscle tearing, and is also used to help prevent the cow from kicking the milking unit off. This is an effective method and is one of the OSHA guidelines/recommendations for working with dairy cows. Pictured below is one of our dairy cows with a hobble. The main use for this cow is to prevent her from slipping and tearing any muscles. If a cow does slip and tear her muscles, it is very unlikely that she will walk again. These are mainly put on cows who have a history of slipping or are old (or both!).
Hello ! My name is Jenna, and I am a second year student studying Pre Vet-Animal Science here at UMaine. I adore all animals, but truly love working close with large animals. So this semester in the cow barn has been very special to me. I have had the opportunity to give shots, watch a live calf birth, and further implement devices that prevent certain hardware from being digested by the cow (among many other things!) To say the least It's been a pretty fun and jammed packed semester!
One of my absolute favorite aspects of J.F Witter Farm (besides all of the lovely animals and people) would have to be its location. Witter farm is located right on Witter Farm road off of Stillwater and College Ave. Once you drive down the dirt road, admiring the view of the field, you will come across the farm ! Witter farm was ultimately constructed in 1972, after the old barn caught fire. Once production was complete all cattle were moved off campus and into the facility that still stands tall on the top of the hill today ! J.F Witter Farm is hands down one of the best locations to watch the sunset, its high elevation makes for the perfect scenery. Mix that with the beautiful aroma of the cows and walla you have yourself a grand time. And whether it is just you or you are accompanied by one of the many deer friends around the facility, J.F Witter Farm is an experience you will never forget !
Hi! My name is Gwyn. I’m a second year pre-vet student at the University of Maine. The first few weeks of classes at Witter definitely scared me but as time went on, the cows here are slowly winning over my heart.
As part of UMADCOWS, we are responsible for feeding all the calves. While we do not put down the feed ourselves, we often grain them and then push up the feed so that they are able to reach it. A key aspect to calf feeding is the weaning process. Weaning is when you get the calf accustomed to food other than milk. Gradually we decrease the amount of the milk that a calf gets in order to help them transition to solid food. During this time they are also getting calf grain which has a lot of nutrients that are important for their early development.
Proper nutrition is so important for early
development in calves because it helps to
strengthen their immune system and helps them
grow big and strong. The calf grain that they are
fed helps their rumen get accustomed to
digesting grain. Giving the calves calf grain can
also help us tell when it is safe to wean them!
Once a calf can eat 3-5 pounds of grain per day,
we can safely wean them. It’s so important to
wean calves properly in order to not cause any
stress on the animals. Once they are large
enough and have had enough calf grain to help
support their rumen, they are moved to the
livestock pens. The livestock pens are much
larger and give the calves plenty of space to
stretch out, play, and get accustomed to living in
the livestock pens.
Hello! My name is Aria. This is my second year at UMaine as an Animal and Veterinary Science Student with a Pre Veterinary Concentration, and my favorite place to be for classes is Witter Farm. There are classes directly related to several of the animals, and clubs for those who may not have classes yet.
As a part of UMADCOWS, we participate in a lot of the cows' lives. Throughout the Animal and Veterinary Science program, we also get to spend time with the pigs, horses, and chickens on the farm. I enjoy spending time with the animals, and when I am here for chores or other reasons, I always make a point to say hello, and give them a pet, or a good scratch.
Even if you have a hard time telling some of the animals apart, each animal has their own way of being identified. The cows have ear tags, and signs in the barn identifying them by name, allowing you to say hello to each of them by name when you are passing through for anything from milking to chores. The horses each have individual signs on their stalls, and there are signs with every pig's name who has ever lived on the farm in the pig barn.
Witter, and the animals there are one of the things that inspired me to start drawing more. Because of this, I drew a photo of the animals that live, or can be seen, on the farm.
Ever wonder how the cows on the Witter farm got their name. Well, there is a very fun process to naming. Every semester student’s taking care of the Witter farm cows are assigned to pregnant females due to give birth over the semester. Once students get the text, they are off to the farm to watch the birth and help post-calving. How these newborn calves get named is very fun. They take the first letter of the mother’s name, and their child will start with that letter. For example, Dasahlia gave birth to Dancer, Rapier gave birth the Riddikulos, Piñata age birth to Potsticker, and Damsel gave birth to Ducky.
Hi, my name is Bonnie and I am in my second year of Pre-Vet at University of Maine. I love large animal medicine, and cows in particular, so this semester with UMADCOWS has been exciting, to say the least. One of my favorite aspects of the farm is that we are the home to lots of calves, so learning more about their internal physical conditions and how to grow them into strong cows is equally thrilling.
Raising healthy, happy calves is very important to creating a healthy, happy farm, and it all starts with nutrition. We make sure that calves receive colostrum when they are first born, which is filled with nutrients and assistance with immunity to certain illnesses that may harm the cow down the road. After receiving colostrum, we ensure that we are still getting the animal enough nutrition by providing it with frequent meals of milk replacer, and clean, fresh water. All of these are packed with fuel for the microbiome of the cow, which offers a comfortable setting in the digestive system for the calf to process solid foods when it ultimately becomes weaned from liquid meals. Nutritional awareness drives the development and well-being of the cow from birth, so next time you see our fluffy calves, you know there’s a lot more to them than just being adorable.