UMaine dairy herd ranks among cream of US Holstein crop
The Holstein Association USA announced this month that the University of Maine’s J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center’s dairy herd will receive the 2019 Progressive Breeders Registry Award and the 2019 Progressive Genetics Herd Award.
The Witter herd has the distinction of being the only dairy in Maine to receive both awards. To evaluate the herd, the Holstein Association USA evaluates each animal on 18 physical traits relative to their age, milk production history and stage of lactation.
The J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center at UMaine is part of the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station, and includes Witter Farm and Rogers Farm. In addition to housing research that supports Maine’s dairy, sheep and equine industries, Witter Farm serves as a training facility for UMaine’s animal and veterinary science students, who take foundational courses there and eventually assume responsibility caring for the herd in a laboratory course informally called UMAD COWS (UMaine Applied Dairy Cooperative of Organized Working Students).
The farm’s applied learning environment provides students with animal husbandry and handling skills essential to success in veterinary school and working in the livestock industry. It also teaches them universal job skills like reliability and punctuality. To prepare for the Holstein Association’s classification inspection, students arrived at the barn one hour earlier than usual, at 2:45 a.m. rather than 3:45 a.m., to ensure the cows and facility were spotless.
“Our students pour their hearts into their work here,” says Lizz McLaughlin, Witter Farm’s livestock operations manager. “Most have little to no prior experience with dairy cattle before taking UMAD COWS. I can train them on all of our chore procedures, but I can’t train them to care. Caring and dedication is what really makes this place work.”
To learn more, visit the center’s website or stop by during public visiting hours 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.