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The Summer Dairy Institute: A Unique Program for Advanced Training of New Veterinarians Supporting the Dairy Industry


In a rapidly changing agricultural economy that is increasingly affected by national and global economic and political influences, the dairy industry must stay abreast of progress in the field in order to be competitive. The enterprise must also be sensitive to larger issues such as consumer desires, environmental influences, and animal advocacy movements.<P> The food consuming public expects and deserves wholesome and safe foods. Agriculture is a very important segment of the economy, dairy being the largest by far in New York State. The health and well-being of dairy cattle is vital to the industry and by extension to the state and the public. In order to serve the diverse and evolving needs of the state's dairy farmers, veterinarians who would serve that field require not only traditional skills but will need an expanded array of abilities. <P>The Summer Dairy Institute seeks to bring to new veterinarians the latest and most timely information from renowned experts in several pertinent fields so that they may better assist the industry in producing a safe and wholesome product in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable fashion. Summer Dairy Institute is in planning stages for its 7th year, having had 110 participants complete the course in the first 6 years, most now having graduated from college and many of them working in support of New York's dairy industry. <P>These SDI participants have come from 30 different College or Schools of veterinary medicine. Summer Dairy Institute, by using lecture and field exposure, intends to prepare veterinarians to meet evolving demands of: 1. dairy producers as they seek help in caring for their animals and 2. a public that expects not only safe and wholesome dairy products, but assurance that those productive animals are well cared for. <P>Farms visited during the course receive prompt analyses of their operations utilizing the best of current knowledge. With increased abilities contributed to by this course, more veterinarians are attracted to enter the field and will be better equipped to assist their clients, enabling the producers to seek a more profitable operation while they are supplying an affordable food source. Financial well-being of rural communities is impacted by the financial health of its largest agricultural segment and veterinarians are integral to not only the individual producer, but to the security of that industry. <P>The vision of the Summer Dairy Institute is to accelerate and augment the ability of motivated veterinary students and new veterinarians to contribute to the modern dairy industry while fostering development of professional networks.<P> Our mission is to provide a concentrated 6 to 8-week course of the highest quality to a select group of professionals whose career objective is to enhance the well-being of dairy cattle such that they contribute to efficient, profitable, and environmentally sound production of safe food. We aim to provide this as an on-going yearly program and to also maintain contact with past participants to further enhance the program and meet the needs of those allied with dairy enterprises.

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Non-Technical Summary: We seek to identify the genetic networks required by Salmonella to proliferate on and within tomatoes, a common vehicle for transmission of the bacteria to humans, and to determine the means by which the plant responds to suppress Salmonella infection. This work is important as vegetables and produce have become major sources of human salmonellosis in this country. Additionally, little is known about the bacterial constituents required for growth in produce plants. We thus hypothesize that the expression of specific Salmonella genes is required for survival and replication of the pathogen in tomatoes. These genes will be differentially regulated, so that they can be identified through their specific induction upon infection of the plant. We further hypothesize that tomato detects Salmonella, and this limits infection by the bacterium. Our goals for this proposal are therefore to define Salmonella genes and genetic pathways that are essential for survival and proliferation in tomatoes. Such pathways are potential intervention targets for preventing produce contamination. In parallel, this project will characterize the molecular responses of tomato leaves and fruits to attempted Salmonella infection and will assess whether these responses play a role in inhibiting Salmonella survival and growth in these tissues. <P> Approach: Soon-to-be dairy veterinarians will meet for 6 to 8 weeks in Ithaca, New York and use the advantages of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, including proximity to several progressive dairy operations. Authorities from across North America at the forefront of their field will conduct advanced lectures, discussions, and practical exercises on courses to include reproduction, nutrition, farm finances and decision making, animal welfare, data management and performance monitoring, farm facilities, hoof care, labor training and management, youngstock care, biosecurity, practice management, transition cow strategies, udder health and quality milk, and dairy oriented Spanish language. Group visits will be made to progressive area dairy farms and to large successful dairy farms in the upper Midwest. Small group visits allow participation in activities such as calving pen management, milking management, feeding strategies, foot care, and reproductive care. The course will offer also field engagement with professionals involved in supporting or using the dairy industry such as an artificial insemination center and technicians, feed mills and analysis laboratories, professional nutritionists, hoof trimmers, cheese plant, milk processing facility, and slaughter house/packing plant. Immediate benefits accrue to host farms as they receive first-hand assessment of their operation based on cutting-edge information provided in the course. Communal housing and most meals are offered with the program so as to enhance the learning experience and promote future collaboration among participants. Future benefits come as increased numbers of new veterinarians enter work force better prepared with relevant and essential skills to serve dairy clients throughout the industry. Summer Dairy Institute uses many talent sources to deliver its program. The predominant speakers are from academia, especially land grant colleges, and including other academia rooted sources such as faculty with extension appointments in the Pro-Dairy program. Other program faculty bring perspectives from industry, government (e.g. New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets USDA-FSIS), and successful private veterinary practices serving dairy clients. In addition, participants have contact and exchanges with successful and profitable dairy farm owners/managers, who by virtue of their achievement have generally made use of recent research and are attuned to progressive choices. This broad exposure to current aspects of production brings participants to the cutting edge of thought.

Bowman, Dwight
Cornell University
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