Sweet, new calf named in honour of Halloween

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Born just one day shy of Halloween, it’s fitting that the newest calf at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is named Kandy.

Kandy’s mother, Kathie-Anne, welcomed her new calf into the world at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 30. Kathie-Anne is seven years old, and Kandy is her fifth calf.

“The labour lasted for two and a half hours – from the first visible signs of the calf being born,” says Jim Ness, a herdsperson for the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, adding that older cows deliver faster than heifers – which are cows who are delivering for the first time. “She was up on her hooves and suckling on her mother within the hour, which is a good sign.”

Little Kandy is a Holstein – the most popular breed of dairy cows in Canada, and many other countries. She won’t be lonely – there are currently 75 dairy cows at the museum, which operates as a demonstration farm in the heart of Ottawa.

“We milk our cows twice a day – early in the morning, before the museum opens, and again at 4 p.m.” says Nadine Dagenais Dessaint, an education, interpretation and exhibition officer with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. “Visitors can watch the second milking and we have staff on site – answering questions and explaining what is going on.”

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is home to all six dairy cattle breeds found in Canada: Holsteins, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorns, Jerseys, Ayrshires, and even the endangered Canadienne cow.

Forty-five of the museum’s 75 cows currently produce milk. Like all mammals, cows need to give birth in order to lactate. Cows have a nine-month gestational period, and give birth once a year. After calving, they produce milk for 10 months.

Visitors won’t see Kandy’s father at the museum – there are no dairy bulls on site. To inseminate the cows, museum staff purchase bull semen from a catalogue.

“This allows us to select the right bull for each cow, and improve the genetic makeup of their offspring,” explains Dagenais Dessaint.

The cows are usually inseminated two months after they give birth. Seven months later, they are ‘dried up’ – no longer milked – so that they can focus their energy on the growing calf. Then, the cycle continues. The average dairy cow calves four to five times.

The public is welcome to come and meet the dairy herd at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. A demonstration session, All about milk, is held every day at 2 p.m. Museum staff discuss the evolution of milking tools – from stool and bucket to the portable milk pail to the modern milking machines and pipeline.

Watch a short video about the Holstein cow on the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum’s YouTube channel.

BY THE NUMBERS – Cows at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Milking cows at the museum: 45

Average weight of a Holstein cow: 800 kg

Average age of cow at first calving: 24 months

Daily milk production from a Holstein cow: 30 L/day

Daily water consumption of a Holstein cow: 100 L (that’s about a bathtub full!)

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.