International research at Dairy Campus
From the end of February till the middle of May there’s a international research on the Dairy Campus previously called Nij Bosma Zathe. Two students Jill MacKay and Tamara Wind both from different countries, are doing a research called;
The use of activity monitors to characterise the variation in activity patterns of dairy cattle with different temperaments. Jill and Tamara are respectively from Scotland and The Netherlands. Beneath they wrote a potted story about what they are doing.
100 cows at the Dairy Campus are fitted with IceQubes™, tri-axial accelerometers which record lying and standing times. These types of devices are typically used to detect oestrus events in dairy cows, but have great potential for use as behaviour and welfare monitoring tools. Jill MacKay, as part of her PhD with the SAC and University of Edinburgh, is developing new methods for monitoring the behaviour of cattle with activity monitors. Her PhD is a CASE studentship with the BBSRC and IceRobotics Ltd.
It was through the partnership with IceRobotics Ltd that Jill was introduced to Kees van Reenen from Wageningen University. Ten weeks in to Jill’s PhD, Kees heard about a possible experiment she wanted to run, characterising the behaviour of large numbers of animal with different temperaments. Kees knew of the perfect farm where such an experiment could take place; Dairy Campus!
One year later, Jill left Edinburgh and drove to Leeuwarden. From February to May in 2011, she will test the fearfulness and sociability of all 100 tagged animals – twice!
This is a very large project, and needs a lot of help. So Kees recruited the help of Tamara Wind, a final year bachelor student at the CAH University of Applied Sciences Dronten, by placing a vacancy at the “CAH Kennisbalie”. Tamara combines her internship at WUR Livestock Research with her thesis. Tamara is besides the entrepreneurship on dairy farms in general also interested in the individual animal management on dairy farms. The question to what extent the character, especially the assertiveness of dairy cows affects the management on the dairy farm, fits well with Tamara's interests. She wants to look if the daily management can be optimized by using assertive cows. For this research she will see if the results of the behaviour tests, the milkdata of the cows, and the activity patterns correlate. These results will be placed in a business context for her bachelor-thesis.
This fits perfectly into the context of Jill's research for her PhD. One of our first challenges was to place the sensors on the hind legs of 100 cows! The overall aim of this study at the Dairy Campus is to relate the individual variation in activity to temperament traits in dairy cattle.
Five days a week Jill and Tamara are standing between the cows to do the research. Next to assisting Jill with the experiments, and doing her own work, Tamara also supports Jill on the communication part on the farm, she works hard to translate from Frisian to Dutch to English for Jill. So the cooperation with all parties which are involved with the project goes as well as possible. Tamara is also trying to teach Jill at least one Frisian phrase before Jill leaves!
Jill and Tamara have been welcomed very warmly by the staff here, the staff are very helpful! It is amazing how smoothly things are running! In addition, the studies further supported by three students of Van Hall Larenstein Leeuwarden.