What an interesting time! I expect that we, our children, and our grandchildren will be telling descendants stories of the 2020 epidemic for decades to come. At Mizzou, we continue to provide our students with a world-class education, but we all miss meeting with students face-to-face, and faculty and students alike miss the hands-on animal interaction that is a focus of our curriculum. My students are taking an exam today. Their performance has been good on our daily problems, and it will be interesting to see how they perform on the exam. Those of you who had my 8 a.m. M-F genetics class (there have been more than 3,000 of you) remember the daily grind, and perhaps giving this group of students the opportunity to complete the problem online at a time of their choosing has been a benefit!
Our essential research also continues, with caution. Drs. Prather and Wells are developing pig models for human disease funded as two NIH centers, as a pig model more closely resembles humans than does a mouse model. The strategy is analogous to that they have used for developing pigs resistant to the PRRS and TGE viruses. Among other research projects are those evaluating high-oleic soybeans in livestock feed, investigating assisted reproductive technologies and large offspring syndrome in cattle, and strategies for improving efficiency of reproduction. Dr. Safranski has been collaborating on an interesting project using pigs as a model for evaluating tooth wear from early human diets. We wish all these researchers well and appreciate their contributions.
We have formed an external advisory committee for the division with membership including producers, commodity group leaders and industry leaders. At our first meeting we primarily focused on the needs of our dairy farm. In part, as a result of recommendations from the committee, the Foremost Guernsey herd has been transferred to Northwest Missouri State University. Northwest is planning to process milk from their herd, and will be better able to capture value from the Guernsey’s high quality milk. This transition will allow the Mizzou Dairy to focus on our outstanding Holsteins and commodity milk production, as well as our grazing herd of crossbred animals, and will improve the profitability and sustainability of our farm. Also with the sage advice of advisory board members, we have been able to make much progress toward solving longstanding waste handling issues. Thank you to those volunteering their time to serve on the committee.
Despite the daunting budget reductions projected for the coming year, we have good news with the hiring of two outstanding faculty members, Kiho Lee and Bhanu Telugu. They will contribute to our livestock genetic engineering program and be part of the UM System’s NextGen Precision Health Initiative. We are also pleased to welcome Tawnie DeJong this summer as an instructor in livestock evaluation and as coach of the livestock judging team. Read on for more complete information about Tawnie in this newsletter. We hope that many of you will get a chance to meet Tawnie at our alumni judging contest during celebration of the 150th anniversary of the College in October. We are especially grateful to the alums and the livestock industry for contributing more than $60,000 this year to support the program.
Also on the good news front, the USDA Agricultural Research Service is investing in our program and will initially fund two faculty members to work in the department on areas related to the livestock genetic engineering program. These investments will further strengthen our research program, which currently ranks 3rd in the nation in overall productivity!
Finally, our thoughts go out to those working in the livestock and food industries. We know this is an extraordinarily stressful time with challenges to physical, mental and financial health. If there are ways that we can serve you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. As always, we enjoy hearing from you. Please drop us a note to let us know what and how you are doing.
Director, Division of Animal Sciences