Danes Keep Detailed Records On Every Animal

We introduced Grainews readers to Brenda Campbell in the November issue. The 22-year-old from a cow-calf farm near Sundre, Alta., is in Denmark for a six-month working visit on a dairy. We asked her to send regular reports to tell us what she’s doing, how farming in Europe is different from farming in Alberta, and what farming tips she learns that she’d like to try back home.

HERE IS HER THIRD INSTALMENT, WRITTEN FEBRUARY 12:

Denmark, a country founded around 700 A. D., is rich in history. This makes for fascinating traditions, culture and artifacts — all of which I am trying to take in. Aside from national history, the Danish farm where I live has quite a historical story to tell as well.

When this Danish farm was started, six Holstein cows were bought after disease forced the slaughter of the existing shorthorn cattle. This was in 1938. My host father, Frede, believes 95 per cent of his current cows are descendents to one of these, cow number six, born on February 28, 1938. The other five per cent are bought females. These facts can actually be verified through the amazingly detailed records kept for each animal since the original six cows were purchased in 1938.

At the present time, such records are customary because in 1982, each farm was given a specific number, which is written on every government issued ear tag. Each animal born on this farm then gets an individual number. No animal in the whole country ever has a duplicate number. This also allows us to easily identify bought or raised cows, as well as approximate age, due to chronological numbering.

Each time a cow is bought, sold, dies, calves, or leaves the farm for more than three days, a paper description needs to be sent to the government within seven days of this event occurring. These records are electronically organized and each farmer gets a sheet of paper corresponding to each cow. He keeps these records indefinitely for future reference. Cow records also include genetic, calving, and milking information. This system is helpful to all purebred breeders, but is also a requirement for all commercial cattle, sheep and pigs.

Although this system is very time consuming, the results are very effective as all animal records are accurate and complete. As Frede says, the government knows where every cow is at all times, but not all the people! I believe parts of this system might be very useful on my family’s farm at home and I will suggest trying a small-scale trial run when I get home. As for a national approach, it seems to work very well for Denmark, so maybe this system can give other countries something to think about.

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