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Friday, June 3, 2005

The Daily Cardinal http://www.dailycardinal.com/article.php?storyid=960580

Ten dead at Franbook Farm*
Sam-Omar Hall

Ten cows died from malnutrition this past winter at a special research farm run by UW-Madison located near New Glarus, Wis. A technician who was in charge of caring for the herd has resigned and a faculty member who oversaw the care of the cattle has been suspended from caring for animals.

According to Richard Straub, interim associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, a disagreement between the unnamed faculty member and the technician over the proper way to feed the cattle led to the cows' unhealthy condition.

Due to the wet winter, the hay was of a poor quality and the animals were not fed sufficient supplemental feed, said Straub. However, none of the animals actually died of starvation. Six died of complications related to calving, others died due to crowded conditions and some died due to overfeeding in an attempt to nurse them back to health. One animal was autopsied and had problems related to its rumen, or first stomach, said Straub.

The university has taken steps to ensure that incidents like this do not happen again said Straub and Elton Aberle, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Franbook Farm, which was the only special research facility of its kind, did not have direct reporting responsibility to the Office of the Director of Agricultural Research, but that has since changed.

The university has also appointed a large animal supervisor for Franbook Farm, which it did not have previously.

Straub said the technician who left the university has been blacklisted from animal care at UW-Madison but because he is no longer employed he cannot be disciplined further. Should the faculty member wish to care for animals in the future, the individual must wait out a minimum one-year suspension, attend animal care and utilization meetings and then undergo a probationary period.

The cows that died were part of a study to determine whether the tendency to have twins could be bred into beef cattle. Franbook Farm is also the site of a grazing study and an ecological study regarding a drained pond.

The incident has been reported to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and to the Association for Assessment of Laboratory Animal Care, according to university officials.

The university cares for about 1,500 to 1,800 head of cattle according to Straub.

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* We reprint this article here because articles disclosing problems associated with animal care at the University of Wisconsin sometimes disappear from the archives of local media.


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