Dairy Campus in Leeuwarden is the innovation center for dairy farming and the dairy chain. To achieve our mission, the 500 dairy cows are indispensable. They mainly produce data, in addition to milk. Louise 1946 is one of these cows. We follow her in this blog.
Louise1946 was born on March 10, 2018 and named after Prof.dr.ir. Louise O. Fresco, chairman of the board of Wageningen University & Research on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of WUR.
The number 1946 is her 'work' number and is part of the life number as stated in her passport. In this bi-monthly blog we give an insight into the state of affairs at our center and what happens to our animals on the basis of her activities.
In the first blog we were able to mention at the last minute that Lousie1946 gave birth to a healthy calf, Ymkje Louise, on December 19, 2020. In this edition we look at the process that preceded this: insemination, gestation, drying off and giving birth.
On March 26, 2020, Louise1946 was artificially inseminated on Dairy Campus with semen from CRV bull Bouncer. We will discuss why this bull was chosen in the next blog about heredity.
Insemination is done by the inseminators of CRV. With our 500 cows, they come to the farm every day. Not every artificial insemination succeeds immediately. On average, one third of the cows are re-inseminated. However, Louise1946 turns out to be very fertile, which also suits her age (10 March she turned three). One insemination was sufficient for both this insemination and that in May 2019. This allowed her to give birth twice in 2020, in February and in December.
When to inseminate? The rut or heat of a cow consists of different phases. Wailing, jumping and later being pounced, the standing journey. With artificial insemination, the optimal time is 12 to 18 hours after the start of the journey. On Dairy Campus, the cow is checked by the regular vet to see if she is physically ready for a new gestation. If the cow still gives enough milk, so approximately equal to the amount she would have after the birth of a calf, then a new gestation is not desirable. When milk production decreases, the insemination process is started, starting with following a decision tree. Dairy Campus focuses on extending the lifespan and therefore more on lifetime production than production per lactation.
After Louise's fertilization in 1946, she had a gestation period of almost 9 months (268 days) during which the fertilized egg developed into a viable calf. This is also the average gestation period for her Holstein Friesian breed. After two months the fruit is already completely complete, the mini calf then measures about 8 cm. After five months the embryo starts to move, it then weighs about 2 kg and measures 35 cm. After seven months, the calf is 'finished' in terms of body proportions. It then weighs 15 kg and is about 65 cm long. The calf then has to grow and grow hair and teeth. At birth, on average after 9 months and a few days, the calf is about 80 cm long and weighs 30 to 50 kg. Ymkje Louise was on the small and light side with a birth weight of 34 kilos. The length is not measured.
On 23 November, Louise1946 was transferred to the transition stable of Dairy Campus for her dry period. Cows that have to calve and are in the dry period stay in this barn. The approximately 45 cows are divided into 2 sections, a section with a urine-permeable floor and an automatic manure collector and a section with straw. There is also a separate department with the option of individual supplementary feeding.
Drying off means a temporary lactation stop. During this period when the cow is not producing milk, the cow can prepare for a new lactation and calving. The dry period is a kind of maternity leave for the cow. The cell count of Louise1946 was measured before drying. The cell count determines the best way to dry it. In this case, due to a number of large peaks in the cell count, drying with a drying preparation (antibiotic) was chosen. This is the policy on Dairy Campus if the cell count exceeds 150000.
She was dry for 27 days due to a slightly premature delivery. This is also known as a shortened dry period. From 2014 – 2018, research was conducted into the optimal dry stand strategy with 183 cows on Dairy Campus within the Customized Dry Stand project. This shows that shortening or omitting the dry period improves the energy balance and metabolism of cows in the months after calving, but this costs milk. A dry period is also desirable for cows with a high cell count.
To be continued
In the next blog we look at the heredity and genetic predisposition of Louise1946 and her descendants.