of Veterinary Medicine
Cows are milked twice a day in a parlor that has a place for 12 cows to be milked at a time. It takes about 2 hours to get through the process including cleaning of the parlor and milking lines. Cows are given an 8 week dry-off period before calving, which they spend outside in a pasture. 2-3 weeks before calving, the cows are brought into a calving pen for better observation and feed. Calves are allowed one meal from the cow before they are separated into boxes, where they spend about 1 week before being introduced into a “kindergarten” of similarly aged calves for about 10 weeks until they are ready to enter a pre-school group, where they stay on straw until they are about 4-5 months old. All calves must receive 2 ear tags- this is mandated by the government as part of their system of identification and tracking of food products. After calving, cows are usually inseminated in about 60-70 days, but observation of estrus behavior is used to detect estrus. Heifers are inseminated around 15 months of age. Before their first calf, they are introduced to the milking population, where they are given a chance to learn the routine and how things work, including being taken to the milking parlor, before parturition, so that the process is easier once they are in milk. While in the milking cow population in the barn, each cow is has a chip, which records the amount of milk she produces each time, and accordingly, she is automatically given a specific amount of concentrate to prevent acidosis. For 40 liters of milk, a cow will receive 4 kilograms of concentrate.
After touring the farm, Dr. Surborg told us about the protocol for a local vet with a suspected outbreak of a pathogen such as FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease). In general, “nothing in, nothing out” is a good practice- nothing should be carried to a farm and nothing should be carried from it. In a suspected outbreak case, a full protective suit such as Tyvek, should be used to prevent being contaminated. A thermometer, a flashlight, and knowledge are the most important tools. A temperature above 40°C (104°F) and visualization of mouth vesicles is strongly indicative of FMD and the county veterinarian must be called in to investigate and control. With the ear tag system that the European Union uses, it is relatively simple to track movement of cattle, so it can be easily known where the disease might have spread and should be investigated. The last FMD outbreak in Germany was in 1984.
After the farm, we went to facility that creates biofuel from cow feces and silage. 30% of the output is created from the cow feces. 22 farmers from the area contribute to the input at these facilities and the output is used to generate all the electricity that is used by all public buildings such as schools, government buildings, and hospitals that are in the village. Additionally, the “waste” is used by the 22 farmers to fertilize the pastures where the corn is grown for silage. Every year, this biofuel facility will use 16-18,000 tons of corn and 8-10,000 tons of sewage to create fuel. One ton of corn is able to create .5MWh of energy. In the fall, corn is brought in and fermented, then brought into the facility where it is fed into the system to create energy. The silage and sewage are fed into fermentors, which are heated to 40°C from the heat of the motors that are used to convert the gas into energy (this is done via water pipes that transport the heated water to the fermentors).
Next, we visited a wind farm, which contained 10 wind turbines, which are able to produce 53,000 MWh per year, which is enough for 13,250 four person households. The turbines are actually able to produce so much energy, they are often turned off because they are unable to harvest as much energy as is being produced.
Lastly, we visited the home and practice of Drs. Helmut and Ingrid Surborg. There, Dr. Helmut Surborg told us about bovine practice in Germany. In Germany, there are 25,994 veterinarians in practice at the moment. Of these, 808 are specialists for cattle medicine. In Germany, there are about 13 million cattle and 4.4 million are dairy. The most common breeds are Holstein-Frisian in the North and East and Fleckvieh in the South. Bovine practice has a wide range of things that are required, from obstetrics and gynecology to lameness, which is the biggest problem facing bovine medicine. Artificial insemination is usually done by farmers and technicians. The trend in Germany is such that the number of bovine farms is decreasing, so the total population is maintained by increasingly large farms. Another trend is that veterinarians are increasing in numbers, but not bovine practitioners.
After his talk, we were treated to a wonderful meal. We had beef roulade (beef pounded thinly with vegetables and seasoning rolled inside) in a gravy, with red cabbage, two types of potatoes, a side salad, and a cucumber salad. Wine was also served, that was made by Ingrid’s brother, who lives in the Rhine River area. After dinner, we were treated to ice cream (strawberry, chocolate and vanilla) with hot cherries in sauce. After a while, we were also treated to cake and coffee. Once we were finished, we walked into the town to view a stork’s nest, but the stork whom we had seen earlier in the nest was no longer there.
After a long, very interesting and fun day, we finally loaded into the cars on our way to Berlin, which would take about 4 hours with the traffic.
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