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Animal and Veterinary Sciences

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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:

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.


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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Contact Information

Animal and Veterinary Sciences
5735 Hitchner Hall, University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469-5735
Phone: (207)581-2770 | Fax: (207) 581-2729E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System