Cattle Logs from 1882 to 2012

Holstein-Friesian cattle of the Brookbank herd, Iowa City c1886

After seeing a card catalogue in the Iowa State University library in 1882,  Thomas B. Wales, the secretary of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America, applied the idea to the 40,000 animals in the Holstein-Friesian Herd Book. He estimated that the number of new cards will double every two years. Noted Edward Tenner (in “From Slip to Chip,” Harvard Magazine, November-December 1990): “Here was a ‘cattle log’ in the truest sense.” 

In 1885, the Association of Breeders of Thouroughbred Holstein Cattle and the Dutch Friesian Association of America merged to form the Holstein-Friesian Association of America: “The 284 dairymen who signed the founding charter of the organization wanted to preserve and disseminate useful information and facts about the Holstein pedigree. They strove to identify desirable qualities and distinguishing characteristics of the best of the Holstein breed, and to promote and communicate these to other dairymen to help increase their business success.”

Lisa Duffey Montana Beef Network, Bozeman, Montana“Montana Beef Network has been using CattleLog since 2003. CattleLog helps facilitate the exchange of information between the producer, the feeder, and the packing plant by helping us collect, manage, store, and link the data from each of these sources on feeder calves enrolled in our program. The option to preset protocols in CattleLog before working cattle makes data collection faster and simpler. Having the assistance of a data management product like CattleLog provides options and resources for handling data at all levels of the cattle production cycle.” 


Adam Davidson, Meet Claudia, The High-Tech Cow: “Here’s the secret of the modern dairy farm: The essential high-tech advances aren’t in machinery. They’re inside the cow. Take a cow like Claudia. She lives at Fulper Farms, a dairy farm in upstate New Jersey. Claudia is to a cow from the 1930s as a modern Ferrari is to a Model T….  When you ask Robert what’s driving all these innovations in dairy farming, he sounds indistinguishable from a factory owner.’The free market forced that to happen,’ he says. ‘Because either you were going to make a lot of milk … quickly and efficiently … or you wouldn’t be in business.’

The Fulpers did it, which is why they are among the last remaining dairy farmers in upstate New Jersey. Those farmers who couldn’t keep up with the changes are long gone.”

Alexis Madrigal, The Perfect Milk Machine: How Big Data Transformed the Dairy Industry: “In a sense that’s very real, information itself has transformed these animals. The information did not accomplish this feat on its own, of course. All of this technological and scientific change is occurring within the social context of American capitalism. Over the last few decades, the number of dairies has collapsed and the size of herds has increased. These larger operations are factory farms that are built to squeeze inefficiencies out of the system to generate profits. They benefit from economies of scale that allow them to bring in genomic specialists and use more expensive bull semen.

No matter how you apportion the praise or blame, the net effect is the same. Thousands of years of qualitative breeding on family-run farms begat cows producing a few thousand pounds of milk in their lifetimes; a mere 70 years of quantitative breeding optimized to suit corporate imperatives quadrupled what all previous civilization had accomplished. And the crazy thing is, we’re at the cusp of a new era in which genomic data starts to compress the cycle of trait improvement, accelerating our path towards the perfect milk-production machine, also known as the Holstein dairy cow.”

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