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UBC Agassiz Celebrates 25 Years
Looking back and looking ahead
The UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems provides us with the following synopsis of their last 25 years since their Dairy Education and Research Centre was established at Agassiz,
and summaries of some of their innovative research projects in fertility and animal welfare.
       Since 1995, the community of Agassiz has been home to the university’s dairy cattle. Today these cattle play an important role in teaching and research, and at last count, their numbers reached approximately 500.
Now called the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre, this is an internationally recognized research facility supporting the development and adaption of new technologies for the dairy industry. Students from around the world come to study and conduct research at the Centre, located in the town of about 6,000 people.
As the Centre celebrates an important milestone, we look back at some highlights from the past 25 years.
• Dairy cattle and milk quota owned by UBC, located at the Vancouver campus were consolidated with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Agassiz.
• UBC and AAFC sign agreements outlining terms by which AAFC agrees to provide UBC its dairy herd and certain related equipment, and land and facilities located in Agassiz. This enabled the University to formally establish the Dairy Education and Research Centre on land leased from AAFC.
• Research herd increased in size to provide enough experimental animals for most research projects.
• UBC initiates the Animal Welfare Program, and welcomes David Fraser and Dan Weary as NSERC Industrial Research Chairs.
• Nelson Dinn is hired as Agassiz Farm Manager (and today is the Business Operations Manager).
• UBC completes construction of 288 freestall milking cow barn, a double-12 parallel milking parlor, maternity pens, administration offices, and a small research area.
• By 2000, UBC Oyster River Research Farm on Vancouver Island completed its consolidation with the dairy herd in Agassiz.
• Marina von Keyserlingk is hired.
• The new 120-cow freestall barn equipped to automatically monitor feed and water intake is completed.
• AAFC and UBC sign an Access Agreement providing AAFC scientists with access to the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre including animals, facilities and equipment, for the purposes of dairy cattle research.
         Ph.D. student Thomas Ede (with supervision by Dan and Nina)
How do calves experience disbudding?
Calves were found to avoid the place where they were disbudded (either hot-iron or caustic paste). The use of appropriate pain control: a combination of anaesthesia (lidocaine) and anti- inflammatory (meloxicam) lessened this negative memory in the calves.
Disbudding is painful for calves, both short and longer term. Use of anesthesia and post-operative analgesia is recommended.
         Ph.D. Student Hanna Eriksson (with supervision by Dan and Nina)
How does lameness definition and assessment frequency affect the identification and classification of new lameness cases.
The number of cows categorized as becoming lame differed depending on the definition used, with some approaches resulting is as much as 82 % of cows classified as lame. Definitions that required that the cow appear lame across 2 or more assessments greatly reduced lameness estimates.
Better estimates of lameness require following cows across multiple assessments.
       Ph.D. Wali Sahar (with supervision by Nina and Dan)
Can ‘smart’ technology on dairy farms be used to better identify vulnerable cows?
RFID tags commonly used for identification indicated when cows were feeding or drinking. New algorithms were designed to identify when cows compete for access to water and feed. This research shows that individual cows differ in how 4they deal with social competition.
Using existing technologies can assist in identifying common problems found on farm, helping to identify cows at risk of becoming sick after calving.
         Ph.D. Student Anne-Marieke Smid (with supervision by Nina and Dan)
What types of outdoor access do cows want?
Cows show a partial preference for outdoor areas (pasture and outdoor open-pack) compared to a free-stall barn, especially during summer nights. Increased outdoor open-pack space allowance increased time spent outdoors during the night. Access to an outdoor area facilitated estrus expression.
Provide cows outdoor access, ideally pasture, especially during summer nights.
Photo: Hover Collective

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