Skip Navigation

News - Fall 2003 Newsletter

Fall 2003

A Newsletter Once Again
A Merry Christmas to all our friends and alumni wherever you are at this holiday time. We all hope that you have a great holiday season.

It is thirteen years this month since the last issue of our departmental newsletter, which was edited by Dick Gerry even after his formal retirement. Dick is not doing very well in the Orono nursing home and we all certainly wish him a great holiday season.

If you have not been to the UM campus for a few years you will notice when you do come to visit us that a lot of physical changes have occurred in the last ten years. Biggest of all probably is that we are now “The University of Maine”, no more UMO. We are the flagship campus, hence the logo and the banners around campus. At the departmental level we have returned to being Animal and Veterinary Sciences after using 3 other names since the 1980’s including: Animal, Veterinary and Aquatic Sciences (AVA), BioSystems Science and Engineering (BSE, hence the UMADCOWS), and lastly Animal and Horticultural Sciences. These name changes were often associated with the addition of different faculty, but these changes unfortunately also often involved budget cuts or budget redistributions. Many faculty retired and were never replaced, consequently we are one of the smallest departments in the college in faculty numbers but this year we have one of our highest enrollments ever (120 students). Clearly we are doing something right.

The Witter Research Center is no longer under departmental management; like all the other University Farms it is managed directly by the Experiment Station. Its name and focus have also changed. From being primarily a research resource, it is now used extensively for teaching, so it is now the Witter Teaching and Research Center. In 1996, the Witter Center was closed for financial reasons and all the animals were sold. The funds generated by selling the animals contributed significantly to the repairing and remodeling of the facilities and a conscious decision was made by the faculty and administration to reduce the size of the dairy herd and diversify into other species, including horses. This has allowed us to develop an Equine Minor, to teach classes in equine management, reproduction, breeding management, and some aspects of equitation, to make strong ties with the horse industry, to have students perform an internship with an equine professional, to perform equine research, and to have students retrain our standardbred horses to be pleasure horses. The university’s horses are all donations, primarily retired standard-bred harness racers, which are then used for reproduction research while they are retrained by students to become pleasure horses. If you would like a horse for Christmas we have several available for sale.

Students can also bring their horse to school with them and rent one of the boarding stalls at Witter. This is run as a cooperative where everyone helps look after everyone’s horses, including the university’s horses. Trails are available around Witter and student clubs participate in local and regional competitions.

We have also modified our curriculum to make it more hands-on with Dairy Cattle Technology now being a five credit senior level class where everyone is involved in the day-to-day management of the farm and in the decision-making. These classes give our graduates experience working in real-life situations where they have individual and group responsibilities that help prepare them to be successful contributors to the state’s economy in whatever type of position they take after graduation. Our students have also been more successful in gaining admission to veterinary colleges and other graduate programs since we initiated these changes. We currently have alumni enrolled in the veterinary college in Prince Edward Island (three), at the University of Pennsylvania (two), at Iowa State, Tufts, Illinois, and Missouri. We believe that our increased enrollment and the greater success of our graduates are because of these positive changes in our programs.

We have also benefited from the University’s association with Coca Cola which donates several million dollars each year to the University. This money has been used in several ways but the most obvious is in making high tech classrooms in many buildings around campus. The Rogers Hall classroom was one of the first to be refitted with white boards, a big screen, an LCD projector suspended from the ceiling, and nice tables and chairs replacing the old-fashioned individual desk chairs. The room is carpeted and has high quality vertical blinds to limit the incident light when we are displaying images. It is a really nice room in which to teach, particularly for faculty who use Power Point or WebCT. I was one of the first faculty in our college to get their teaching materials into WebCT so now I can display the notes on the screen while I lecture on this material. Now my students can listen to what I am saying instead of desperately trying to write it all down. It was strange for me at first to have everyone looking at me when I lectured, I wasn’t used to that. Many more of these rooms are being created all over campus every year.

Other changes include many new buildings and the university’s enrollment has increased every year for the last five years, which of course has made parking even more of a contentious issue. Another extension was built onto Hitchner Hall for the cutting edge high tech research of biochemistry, molecular biology and genomics. We are currently seeking applicants for an AVS Animal Genomics position that we received as part of a university genomics initiative. So, if you are a PhD/DVM with genomics skills please give Jim Weber a call (207-581-2774). I’m sure he would be very happy to talk to you.

Yes there have been many changes at UMaine, but overall they have been positive changes for us and our students. Have a great holiday season.

Martin Stokes, Professor and Chair

UMaine’s Equestrian Team Triumphs with New Coach
Under the guidance of new head coach, Allison May, the UMaine Equestrian Team turned heads at their first show on October 5th at Dartmouth College. Despite the freezing temperatures, winds, and rain, Coach May, 2003 graduate of UMaine and former Equestrian Team member, guided the seven riders to one of their best shows ever. Riders Arielle Narissi and Sam Foster started the show off right by both winning their Intermediate Over Fences class. Liz Hopkins and Captain Anne Jennings followed their strong performances with placing 5th and 6th, respectively, in their Novice Over Fences class. New members Jess Small and Aislinn Byrne also received a 6th place ribbon each in their Novice Over Fences class. The flat classes began with Narissi receiving a hard earned 3rd in the Open Flat class, while in Intermediate Flat Hopkins earned a 6th and Foster a 5th. In the Novice Flat class Jennings received a 4th placing and next up was Kara Pietroski who placed 2nd in Advanced walk-trot-canter. The last rider of the day was Captain Maureen Pease who receive a well-deserved 3rd place in Beginner Walk-Trot-Canter. The show was a great success for everyone involved. Congratulations to Arielle Narissi who pointed out of her Intermediate Over Fences class and will now being showing in Open Fences and to Anne Jennings who also pointed out from Novice to Intermediate Flat. The Equestrian Team will continue to compete throughout the fall where they hope to continue their winning ways.

Written by Jess Small

Biographical Notes on Some of the AVS Family

  • Robert Causey – Robert is from Harrogate, Yorkshire, England and is one of our two equine veterinarians. He obtained his DVM from Minnesota and his PhD from LSU, was a resident at LSU and then a clinical instructor at UFL, Gainesville. His research centers on infections of the equine uterus and he teaches classes in Equine Reproduction, Training the Standardbred Horse, Laboratory Animal Science coordinates the equine program and advises the Equestrian Team.
  • Robert Bayer – Bob’s research and teaching concentrates on marine aquaculture and he is director of the Lobster Institute. His main contact with animal science students is in our Senior Topics class where he entices students to work on various lobster projects. His current projects include studying lobster shell disease, the development of alternative lobster baits from soy products, and the development of value added lobster products. A snack food made from crustacean shell started as a senior project. Bob would like to hear from any of his former students at
  • Charles Wallace – Chuck was our chair for seven years before Martin Stokes took over the reins in July 2002. Chuck received his education in zoology at Michigan State before getting his graduate education in Animal Science at the universities of Georgia and Florida. His research includes investigating factors that may affect mammary development or lactation. He is also interested in techniques to improve reproductive efficiency in livestock, including the use of vaginal chloride levels to predict the time of ovulation in horses and cattle or to predict the time of lambing in sheep. He is also cooperating with Jim Weber, our other equine vet, and Stuart Stein, an adjunct professor of neurology, in researching the effect of thyroid hormone levels on reproduction, fetal development, and newborn behavior.
  • Martin Stokes – Our current Chair received his education at the University of Leeds in northern England and at the University of Glasgow in western Scotland. He then moved to the heartland of American livestock agriculture to do post-doctoral research at Kansas State University and the University of Illinois before coming to Maine. Martin continues to teach classes in Animal Nutrition, the Senior Topics course sequence, several graduate level classes and he advises both undergraduate and graduate students. His research focuses on silage fermentation, its utilization by dairy cows and its aerobic stability.
  • Kenneth Andries – Ken is the newest member of our department. He is an assistant extension educator with 20% of his appointment in Animal Science research. Ken received his doctorate from KSU before holding extension positions in Kansas and Louisiana. His work at Maine focuses on research and extension outreach into livestock production systems and improving the profitability of Maine livestock industries. He is currently comparing the production traits of Angus and Belted Galloway cattle at the Witter Teaching and Research Center. He is also planning off-campus research into the nutritional requirements of Red Deer in Maine.

Other members of the AVS family will be featured in future issues of this newsletter.

A Livestock Arena for the University of Maine
The College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture is beginning the quiet phase of a $2.4 million campaign to build a livestock arena at the J. F. Witter Teaching and Research Center at UMaine. The arena will provide year round education, research, and outreach opportunities, especially for the rapidly expanding equine activities at UMaine. The Animal Science program and its pre-veterinary concentration is one of the most sought after programs in the college. Approximately 300 students access the Witter Center through their courses each year.

Maine’s winters are long and that means that many of the activities related to the University of Maine’s teaching, research, and outreach missions at the farm are often hampered by inclement weather. A new indoor livestock arena is essential to make the farm fully functional year-round.

Retraining of the retired Standardbred horse is an essential component of the program that uses research horses at the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center. Most horses come to the program because they have failed in some way at the racetrack. The horses are given a second chance through retraining, the students gain a horse education through classes, and the research faculty have a pool of healthy horses for research. Funds for the equine program are obtained through resale of the horses to good homes.

Construction of the livestock arena will provide students who show beef and dairy animals a place to practice and train in preparation for state fairs and other events held both inside and outside of Maine. Different breeds of livestock can be exhibited. Livestock auctions can be held. Students in 4-H can use the facility to train and show animals.

Although the primary purpose of the arena is to educate students and conduct beneficial research, it will also be available for organizations to host horse and livestock shows, hold 4-H events, and purebred and commercial sales. Therapeutic riding is also a program area that may benefit from the livestock arena.

The building will be 120’ x 220’ with inside dimensions of 100’ x 200’ (similar in size to an Olympic ice hockey arena). Retractable bleaches will be installed on one side for viewing. A two-stage elevator will allow complete handicap accessibility to the second floor multi-purpose meeting room. There will be a welcome center that will act as the hub of activity for the entire farm and will include the farm’s administrative offices. As part of this project, the present horse barn, adjacent to the new livestock facility, will be renovated to allow for a tack room, addition of six stalls, two birthing stalls, and feed storage.

The Livestock arena is the crowning jewel that completes the goal, set in 1997, to make the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center a student-centered learning experience in a total animal science system.

model of livestock arena
Contributed by Judy Round

Back to News