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ISAE 2019: ‘Koselig’ experiences in Bergen


The Norwegians have a term called “kos” or “koselig” that, like the Danish “hygge” and the Swedish “mys”, doesn’t really have a direct translation. It is a feeling of comfort and good times spent with friends. It is used to describe the feeling you get reading a good book with a cup of hot tea on a cold day or a walk through the forest under a canopy of fall leaves. It is a feast with friends or a cuddle with kittens. It’s that feeling you get when you’ve submitted your thesis. Koselig is all the things in your life that give you comfort, joy, excitement, and happiness.



The CowLife crew (with friends and family) prepares for our annual Thanksgiving feast!

MSc grad Sarah McPherson with a handful of barn kittens!

The pure “kos” on the faces of (left to right) MSc grads Veronique Boyer and Sarah McPherson, Dr. Elsa Vasseur, PhD candidate Elise Shepley after that ‘submit’ button was pressed!

Koselig is the perfect word to describe the time we at CowLife McGill spend with each other, especially when coupled with conference season. See, conferences are not only a way for all of us here at CowLife McGill to gather new knowledge to further our research and to present our own findings to the scientific community, but it is also a time for us to reconnect with friends made across the years in our field and to enjoy new experiences in new locations as a team. This year’s 53rd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology was no exception!


Elsa Vasseur and Ph.D. candidate, Elise Shepley, traveled to the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway, to represent the CowLife team at this year’s ISAE. Elsa shared the exciting results of years of research on the use of contact mat technology in tie-stalls to study how the stall impacts cow ease of movement. This presentation touched on the validity of the contact mats technology to measure the number of times the cow comes in contact with her stall – a study conducted by a visiting student from Columbia University, Caroline Freinberg, and research Assistant Athena Zambelis. The findings showed that the number of contacts with stall dividers and neck-rails showed high levels of agreement in ranking for visual observations and contact mat data, making this a useful tool in research to determine how changes to the stall impact the cow’s level of contact with her stall. To learn more about this study, check out this post!


Elsa Vasseur explains how contact mat technology is validated and implemented in tie-stall housing research in her presentation, entitled “Have the cows hit the wall? Validation of contact mats to monitor dairy cow contact with stall partitions”.

Elsa also included a bonus overview of the results of the contact mat data for a number of CowLife McGill research studies (manger wall and stall length, neck-rail position, chain length, and double-stall width). These studies put the contact mat technology to the test, comparing how contact with stall hardware was affected by the various changes made in these studies to the stall. Surely enough, the most restrictive treatments for stall configuration were associated with the greatest level of contact registered by the contact mats, while treatments like the double-width stall greatly reduced contact, especially with stall dividers.


Ph.D. candidate, Elise Shepley, discusses the topic of movement opportunity and dairy cow housing with fellow attendees while presenting her poster entitled ‘A cow in motion: Are we really providing ‘exercise’ to dairy cows?’

Elise had the opportunity to share the knowledge she gained over the course of her Ph.D. research, presenting an overview of her review on how housing systems impact cow movement opportunity and the subsequent effects on cow locomotor activity, behavior, and welfare. Elise’s research has spearheaded the redefinition of what it means to ‘exercise’ a dairy cow, focusing on how the cow’s housing system and characteristics within the housing environment dictate the level of movement that the cow has the opportunity to engage in. Her review of the literature delves into the levels of the locomotor activity performed in different housing systems, what systems are most commonly associated with ‘exercise’ in the literature, and what makes a given system more conducive to the movement for cows. Want to learn more about the concept of movement opportunity for dairy cows and why it matters? Check out Elise’s post on the topic here!


Of course, no trip would be complete without a bit of sightseeing! From trekking through troll-filled mountains to voyaging through magnificent fjords as the Vikings did in millennia past, the CowLife duo definitely enjoyed the natural world surrounding ISAE 2019’s host city!


We can’t wait to see what kind of new scientific discoveries, cultural experiences, and adventures ISAE 2020 has in store for the CowLife McGill team next year in Bangalore, India!


Oh, and in case you were wondering what type of book you can find Elsa and Elise curled up with on a cold day, accompanied by a hot cup of tea – here they are picking up the newest novel of our favorite Norwegian author! A bit of Koselig from Norway to take back with us ^_^


Elsa and Elise fangirling over the release of the newest novel in the Harry Hole series as they await their flight from Oslo to Bergen!

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