UVM dairy barn sees its 4,000th calf


SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Thousands of cows have been cared for by students at the University of Vermont and the program has now reached a milestone.

Meet the superstar, Supernova. “We got the call in the middle of the day. Some of us were in class, but we just had to go, ”said Aislinn O’Keefe, a UVM student.

A charismatic calf, and the 4000th baby of the UVM CREAM program born in October 2021.

CREAM stands for Cooperative for Real Education in Dairy Management, and these are the students behind a healthy UVM dairy herd.

O’Keefe says the excitement wasn’t just for Supernova, they just worship their cows.

Supernova is part of the “S line”, it is a family tree that goes back to a given cow named Summer by a man named Doug Nelson. O’Keefe says family trees aren’t just for show, tracing cow genetics is a big part of milk production. “The ‘S line’ has been very good genetically, the cows are great compositions, they are great producers,” said O’Keefe.

The CREAM program has an S line, an R line, a P line, a J line and two M lines, one dating back to the origins of the program in 1936. There are real tangible results in focusing on cow genetics. “So look at the improvements in the cows because we were able to increase the genetics and have a cow as great as Supernova,” O’Keefe said.

“Like my favorite cow, can find her aunt and her sister and her daughter and her granddaughter and all that and that’s so cool,” said Alexis Nieradka, another UVM student. She says she is fascinated by genetics and has been involved in many breeding choices for some of the newer members of the herd. “Even just breeding. I sat in front of my computer inbreeding and watching bulls and traits for hours just to pick a bull for a cow.

For UVM, this commitment has created what they call one of the strongest, genetically healthy herds in the state. “Genomics can really help us improve our cows, so we genetically sample all of our cows and we get some kind of report on their strengths and weaknesses,” Nieradka said.

This can create productive dairy cows, healthy reproductive systems, or healthy cows that are physically strong. Proof of Supernova, who is literally genetically an above average calf, and she’s sweet too. “She’s got a big personality, all ‘S’ cows do it, all cows do it,” Nieradka said.

While they welcomed herd member 4,002 just a few days ago, CREAM will not be resting on its laurels and the students intend to continue.

“Reaching number 4,000 is really a testament to the strength of the CREAM program and to have such good genetics and good cows and to be able to have a legacy that hopefully we can reach 1,000. others, ”O’Keefe said.

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