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News - Fall 2006 Newsletter

Mainely Progress, Fall 2006
Volume 3, Number 2

Changes, Changes, and Still More Changes
When you next visit the University of Maine’s Witter Center you’ll find that things look quite different than you may remember. There was a recognized need for renovations at Witter and to improve the safety of our students, teachers, workers and visitors. Through lots of hard work, the former Dean of NSFA, Bruce Wiersma, former MAFES Director, Steve Reiling, the Maine Dairy Industry Association (MDIA), and dairy producers were able to get $800,000 in bond monies to address some of the most pressing issues. We are very appreciative of all of the hard work put forth by Dean Wiersma, Steve Reiling, MDIA, and dairy producers.

In July of 2006 the renovations began. T. Buck Construction and their subcontractors worked on several areas of the farm simultaneously. The renovations progressed rapidly; so much so that for safety reasons, the Witter Center was closed to the public for the first time in years.

What was done:

  • Painted all buildings
  • Regraded the office building lawn and parking area, calf barn, and feed areas
  • Paved feed area and former dairy turnout area
  • Created a concrete and paved dairy and beef turnout area behind the existing livestock barn
  • Created a new steel gate system between the new turnout area and the dairy barn
  • Reworked the livestock barn chute system to make working cattle easier and safer
  • Built a new sheep barn with extra space for raising and finishing weanling beef steers
  • Tore down the former heifer barn and converted the space into a parking area (future Livestock Arena space)
  • Tore down the feed mill
  • Replaced roof on the horse barn
  • Converted half of the quonset hut into a heated shop space
  • Former shop converted into hay, grain, and bedding storage, with entrances moved to rear of building
  • Dairy Barn interior refaced with FRP paneling; new windows installed
  • Ceilings in the warm room (handling room), barn hallways, and dairy barn fireproofed and painted
  • Milkhouse floor leveled and resurfaced
  • Netting installed on livestock barn rafters to exclude birds
  • Former beef loafing area excavated, re-graveled and is now parking and site of the new sheep barn
  • Dairy manure handling system soon to be replaced

Animals were shuffled from place to place as construction went on. Horses lived outside, calves lived in horse stalls, the dairy herd took over the livestock barn, and the new UMADCOWS students were indoctrinated by milking the herd with a state fair-style milking trailer; a first for both the cows and the students! It was an interesting and busy time for all involved.

Even with the constantly changing environment, the UMADCOWS (and the cows themselves!) not only performed adequately, they excelled in keeping our milk quality top notch. The Witter Center won Agrimark’s 2006 Region 15 Top Quality Producer Award. Through all of this, the usual farm and class activities continued.

The Witter Center won the Beef Herdsman award and took first place in Educational Display at the Bangor State Fair. A newly created Beef Cattle Management class took on the responsibility of preparing for, working and showing at the Fryeburg Fair. Students volunteered in great numbers to help with the beef cattle and to prepare and show our dairy cattle. In all, fourteen different students showed at the Fryeburg Fair and several others volunteered their time to prepare and care for the cattle.

All of Witter’s buildings are now a uniform and attractive grey with white trim, a visual expression of the cohesiveness within. Many of the muddy areas are now gone, cleaning up the facility greatly. Visual attractiveness aside, the renovations have made working at Witter safer and more efficient. The new shop requires less energy to heat, the white FRP paneling in the dairy barn raises our milk inspection score and allows for fewer lights to be left on while still maintaining sufficient brightness for the security cameras, the new horse barn roof makes for a cleaner, safer environment without the leaks, and the dairy and beef cattle are cleaner and happier in their new turnout areas. Pictures of the renovations will be viewable at soon.

We have also seen a number of changes in our upper administration. In September, Professor Edward Ashworth took up his position as the new dean of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture. Ed came to us from Purdue University where he was Professor and Head of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture from 1998 where his research interests included plant responses to freezing temperatures and the mechanism of low temperature acclimation. Ed received his B.S. in Plant Science from the University of Delaware, an M.S. from Cornell in Crop Science, and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Botany-Plant Physiology.

We also acquired a new Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Dr. Edna M. Szymanski, formerly Dean of the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Edna is a national leader in the field of rehabilitation and as a researcher she was particularly interested in the career development of people with disabilities. As Provost she is now determining how to lead UMaine “to a vibrant future.”

Both of our new administrators visited all our laboratories in Hitchner and Rogers Halls to view our facilities and to talk briefly with our Faculty. They were then given a tour of the Diagnostic Laboratories, the Small Animal Facility and taken to the Witter Center. Both were impressed with our achievements in both teaching and research for the Maine people.

Changes are also afoot in the academic departments within NSFA. A plan is working its way through the approval process to merge the Department of Resource Economics and Policy with the Department of Economics. If approved, this unit will become the School of Economics. Under the structure, the School will be inter-collegiate, being both in the college of NSFA and the college of Business, Pubic Policy and Health. While unique to New England, such an organization has been in place at Iowa State University for over 70 years, and is widely recognized as one of the best departments in the country. NSFA faculty will be able to retain their experiment station appointments and continue to work with traditional clients. This change has been approved by the faculty and is awaiting final approval by the university administration. It has also been proposed to create a School of Integrative Biology and Ecology to unite the university’s strengths in organismal biology and ecology with an integrative approach. This school will enhance integrative studies of the complex problems of biology, maximize effectiveness in serving the central mission of biology, the study of organisms, and build on the university’s strengths in ecology. This faculty proposal has been submitted to the upper administration for approval.

University of Maine Students Compete in the Northeast Regional Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, Waterloo, NY, October 19-21, 2006

Five students from the University of Maine Departments of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Resource Economics and Policy competed in the Northeast Regional Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge held October 19-21, 2006, in Waterloo, NY. Cornell University hosted 115 contestants from 14 universities from throughout the Northeastern US and Canada.

The Dairy Challenge is a two-day competition that enables students to apply theory and learning to a working dairy farm, while working as part of a team. On the first day, teams of 4 students receive production, financial and farm management data. After an inspection of the farm, participants interviewed the farm manager to then develop a farm analysis and presentation, which included recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing, labor and financial management. On the second day, team members present recommendations to a panel of judges and then answer questions from the judges. Presentations were evaluated, based on their analysis and recommendations.

The three students from the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, all seniors were, Ashley Bryant from Monroe, ME, Kari Canfield from Webster, NH, and Jennianne O’Connor of Middleboro, MA. The two students from the Department of Resource Economics and Policy, were, Patrick Heacock from Trenton, ME, and Katelyn McCullock from East Dummerston, VT. Coaching the team was Dr. David Marcinkowski, Associate Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist.

Jennianne O’Connor received the Platinum Award, which is the highest award in the contest. Pat Heacock and Katelyn McCullock received Gold Awards for their presentations and Ashley Bryant and Kari Canfield received Silver Awards. Team members are looking forward to the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge competition to be held in Sioux Falls, SD in March of 2006.


  • Brittany Henderson Benn (1984). Brittany says that it seems like only a few years since she was at UMaine but that there have been a lot of changes. Brittany taught high school agriculture and was an FFA advisor for three years after graduation before becoming a substitute teacher, which allows her to spend more time with her 5 year and 7 year old children. She has had various part time jobs relating to agriculture and has been a student at the UMaine compost school several times. She is an avid gardener, loves being a mom, and feels that her life is never boring in “the county.”
  • James Carroll (1994). James has worked for IDEXX since graduating from UMaine and until recently he spent part of his work time in NJ and part in Maine. He is now their Worldwide Pathology Business manager and has been moved to Ontario in an effort to expand IDEXX’s business presence into Canada. On a sadder note, he and wife Melanie have decided to divorce since they make better friends than spouses. Best of luck to you both.
  • Ben Cole (1999). Last December we described what Ben had been doing since leaving Maine for the warmer climes of Florida. This summer we received another message from Ben in which he pointed out that there are many opportunities for graduates with species of animals that are not usually covered in conventional Animal Science classes, such as reptiles, birds, fish, snakes and other exotics. Ben is particularly interested in offering a week long short course or even a summer internship where one or two students could spend time in the rodent production barns, spend some time in the snake barns, and then tour some different facilities to learn about large scale exotics, venom processing, large scale feeder rodent production, and other areas that are in need of Animal Science knowledge and employees but as of yet are still overlooked. Anyone interested in such an internship should contact Dr. Stokes at UMaine or Ben at
  • Katherine Collett (2006). Katherine moved to the Dover-Foxcroft area this summer because her boyfriend had accepted a position at Foxcroft Academy. Soon after this she accepted a position to work with MOFGA in Unity as the Administrative Assistant for General Operations. She acts as an aide to everyone in the office, including certification, educational programs and managing the MOFGA email and snail mail. She feels that this is working out well but she has considered going back to school to get a masters degree so she could work in a job more closely related to Animal Science, such as in Cooperative Extension.
  • Christa Currier Galipeau (1996). Christa returned to Presque Isle after graduation to become a Maine State Certified teacher for secondary education. She married Scott Galipeau and then had a variety of jobs before becoming an agriscience instructor at the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center. In January 2004 her twin daughters, Piper and Sierra, were born and she continued teaching until spring 2006. She has now started her own home tutoring business so she can tutor from home and spend much more time with her girls.
  • Matthew Maiden (1988). Matthew contacted us through the departmental web site. After leaving UMaine he completes a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology at Northwestern University in 1994. He then did a post doc in vascular biology and atherosclerotic disease at the University of Washington in Seattle before moving to Basel, Switzerland, where he works for Roche Pharmaceuticals in drug discovery research. He commented that the Maine Animal Club, the Orono Royal, and a work-study job at the Witter Center were some of the highlights of a very special four years at UMaine.
  • Amy Ruksznis (2001). Rucker Ruksznis played rugby at UMaine and graduated from the Atlantic Veterinary College (PEI) in 2006. She was one of several UMaine AVS grads at AVC including Erin Emmans (AVS 1999), Maggie Vandenberg and Alex Ernst (AVS 2000). Erin now practices in Elkton, Florida, Maggie in Red Bank, NJ, and Alex is the zoo veterinarian at the Cape May County Zoo in NJ. In his reply to a message from Dr. Stokes, Alex commented that he still uses the same basic format for making oral presentations the he was taught in AVS 401, Senior Topics. Amy lives in Freeport and works with small animals at the North Deering Veterinary Hospital. “I can’t believe I get paid to do this for a living.”
  • Christopher Rumsey (1997). After graduating from UMaine, Chris worked for Genex Cooperative as an AI Technician for about 6 years. He then entered the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine where he is currently a fourth-year student. Earlier this fall he was able to visit our senior topics class and the first year Issues and Opportunities class to talk about his experiences at UMaine, with Genex, and studying to become a physician. He has been interviewing for OB/GYN residencies in San Antonio, TX; Tacoma, WA; Washington DC; Honolulu, HI; and Portland, ME. At the time he visited us he was doing rotations in Maternal Fetal Medicine and Gynecological Oncology in San Antonio.
  • Kimberly Townsend (2006). Kim has taken an introductory management position with Petsmart as a pet care manager in charge of all the furry/spiny/scaley little critters while supervising 5 or 6 other workers.

Our very best wishes for a happy holiday season to all our friends, alumni, emeriti and supporters wherever you may be. We hope you will have a successful and rewarding 2007.

Extension Professor Rick Kersbergen of Burnham received the National Association of County Agricultural Agents’ Distinguished Service Award at the NACAA annual meeting and professional improvement conference in Cincinnati in late July. The Distinguished Service Award is given for at least 10 years of exceptional service to Cooperative Extension including the implementation of an effective Extension program. In his 19 years of service, Rick’s research has been instrumental in developing the organic dairy industry in Maine. He also developed the training manual for the Maine nutrient management program and served as coordinator for the USDA-funded Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE). He is now the leader of the joint UMaine-UNH USDA-funded organic grant “Reducing off-farm grain inputs on northeast organic dairy farms.” Congratulations Rick.

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