UVM dairy barn welcomes 4,000th calf

Thousands of cows have been under the care of University of Vermont students and now a major milestone has been hit.
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 8:32 AM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Thousands of cows have been under the care of University of Vermont students and now the program has hit a major milestone.

Meet 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 UVM CREAM Program’s 4,000th baby born in October of 2021.

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

O’Keefe says the excitement wasn’t just for Supernova, they just love their cows “We knew in the lead up that Starlight was due next and her baby was going to be number 4,000,” said O’Keefe.

Supernova is part of the ‘S-line,’ that’s a family tree dating back to a donated cow named Summer from a man named Doug Nelson. O’Keefe says the family trees aren’t just for show, tracing cow genetics is a big part of dairy production. “The ‘S-line’ has been really good all-around genetically, the cows are of great compositions, they are great producers,” said O’Keefe.

The CREAM Program has an S-line, R-line, P-line, J-line, and two M-lines, one that can be traced back to the program’s origins in 1936. There are real tangible results to focusing on cow genetics. “So, see the improvements of the cows as we have been able to increase the genetics and get to such a great cow as Supernova,” said O’Keefe.

“Like my favorite cow, can find her aunt and her sister and her daughter and her granddaughter and all that and it’s so neat,” said Alexis Nieradka, another UVM student. She says she is fascinated by genetics and has been involved in plenty of breeding picks for some of the newest members of the herd. “Even just the breeding. I have sat in front of my computer running inbreeding and looking at sires and looking at traits for hours just to pick a sire for one cow.”

For UVM, that commitment has created what they call one of the strongest, healthiest herds in the state genetically. “Genomics can really help us with improving our cows, so we genetically sample all of our cows and we get sort of a report back on their strengths and weaknesses,” said Nieradka.

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

While they welcomed herd member 4,002 just a few days ago, CREAM won’t rest on their laurels and the students plan to keep up the good work.

“Hitting number 4,000 really is a testament to the strength of the CREAM program and to have just such good genetics and good cows and to be able to have a legacy that hopefully, we can make it to another 1000,” said O’Keefe.

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