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Animal and Veterinary Sciences

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News - Spring 2005 Newsletter

Mainely Progress, June 2005
Volume 2, Number 1

Making the Dream a Reality
Continued growth of our academic programs calls for the expansion of the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center. The centerpiece of this expansion is the Equine and Livestock Pavilion. With over 300 students attending classes, working or volunteering at the Center, and with the return of the veterinary technology program to the University of Maine, demand for hands-on learning at the farm is increasing rapidly. The proposed Equine and Livestock Pavilion at the Center will have a significant impact.

Furthermore, by expanding our programs through an indoor arena, we will provide year-round educational, research, and outreach opportunities. Maine’s winters are long and consequently many of the activities at the center are hampered by inclement weather. A new indoor facility is necessary to make the center a fully functional, year-round facility. Examples of this impact abound. Students who show beef and dairy animals would gain a place to practice and train in preparation for events both inside and outside the state of Maine. It will afford students participating in equestrian sports a place to practice, receive coaching, and host shows on campus, rather than in the frigid temperatures and unstable footings paddocks in January provide. Faculty and students can work with the Standardbred horses throughout the winter and have the animals retrained and ready to be sold for pleasure horses in the spring. Important research about equine and livestock health can be conducted year around.

The construction, design and placement of this new facility will fundamentally reorient the entire farm. With its main entrance facing the road (instead of back, behind and away from the road as now currently exists), the new structure will provide a long-overdue entrance that reflects the outstanding programs operating here day in and day out, year-round with no days off for holidays. As a welcome center for the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center, the complex offices will be housed in the building as well as additional classroom/meeting room.

The building will be 120′ x 220′ with inside dimensions of 100′ x 200′, similar in size to an Olympic ice hockey rink. The area will have a five-foot walkway that will surround the pavilion enabling people to view arena events safely from anywhere on the floor. Because the arena is multipurpose, collapsible pens will be used to accommodate different species of animals for research and teaching purposes. There will be a covered walkway between the horse barn and arena. The second floor will have a mezzanine that will be available for viewing events or classes in session, and a location to hold social events. Plans call for renovation of a portion of the existing horse barn to add a tack room, land clearance for additional pasture and paddocks and increased parking facilities.

The indoor pavilion will be available for lease to a wide variety of community organizations. Students in 4-H can use the facility to train and show animals. Students and others who board their horse at the farm will be able to use the arena in inclement weather and throughout the winter months. In addition, the University will be able to offer clinics for riders, trainers, blacksmiths, and veterinarians that are currently impossible. The facility will be a meeting point for many segments of the equine and livestock industries and may offer opportunities for organizations to use the space for other events such as horticultural shows, sportsman events and other campus and community activities that require a large, open indoor space.

Education is about opening doors, creating opportunities, thinking beyond the box. The proposed Equine and Livestock Pavilion at the J.F. Witter Teaching Center speaks to a commitment of open minds, limitless possibilities, and the advances in research, animal, care, breeding, and treatment that such efforts generate. Education makes the world work better. The more we know, the better we can serve our world around us. This pavilion advances that mission. And there is no better one to advance. The Equine and Livestock Pavilion is the crown jewel that will complete the goal, set in 1997, to make the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research a student-centered learning experience in a total animal science system.

Witter and Chute Gifts Meet the Challenge
The Equine and Livestock Pavilion project recently got a tremendous boost thanks to generous lead gifts from Dr. Richard Witter, son of J. Franklin Witter, for whom the Witter Center is named, and Dr. Harold Chute, professor emeritus of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. With their gifts we were able to meet a special challenge matching grant opportunity made possible by a bequest from William N. Forman, a 1937 agricultural engineering alumnus whose donation was to be used at the discretion of the University president.

In May 2004, former President Peter Hoff issued a challenge to the Livestock Pavilion Project and three other priority projects. The challenge stated, “During the next twelve months, each project will have an opportunity to match up to $100,000 per project. If the challenge is met, the project will agree to create an appropriate naming opportunity in honor of Mr. Forman.”

Thanks to Richard and Joan Witter and Harold and Marion Chute we met the challenge!

University of Maine Team Receives Gold in North American Dairy Challenge
Senior students from UMaine won a gold placing in a tie for Fourth at the Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) held April 8-9, 2005, in State College, Pa. Penn State University hosted the 2005 contest, with 26 teams from the United States and 1 team from Canada competing.

The AVS team consisted of Reagan Ames of Skowhegan, Phil Ferenczy of Hamburg, NY, Erika Harris of Rumford, and Trudy Robinson from Dalton, NH . Associate Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist Dr. David Marcinkowski coached the team.

NAIDC is an innovative two-day competition for students representing dairy science programs at North American universities. It enables students to apply theory and learning to a real-world dairy, while working as part of a four-person team.

Day One began with each team receiving information about a working dairy, including production and farm management data. After an in-person inspection of one of three designated dairies, participants interviewed the herd managers. Then each team developed a farm analysis and presentation materials, including recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management. On Day Two, team members presented recommendations to, and fielded questions from, a panel of judge. Presentations were evaluated, based on the analysis and recommendations. The evening concluded with a reception and awards banquet.

The NAIDC was established as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. It strives to incorporate a higher-learning atmosphere with practical application to help prepare students for careers in the dairy industry. Supported financially through generous donations by agribusinesses and coordinated by a volunteer steering committee, the first NAIDC was held in April 2002.

Hairy Sheep DNA
One of the greatest problems facing sheep producers in the US and worldwide is internal parasites. This problem is most noteable in the Southeastern US where many sheep producers are finding that their de-wormers are not working, causing a reduction in growth of their sheep, which equals a reduction of profits. Over the past year we have studied the ability of Katahdin Hair Sheep to resist internal parasite infection and if their resistance is associated with a specific microsatellite marker on sheep chromosome 5.

We infected fourteen ¾ Katahdin ewe lambs with Haemonchus contortus, the most pathogenic and drug resistant parasite that feeds on the sheep’s blood. At four weeks post infection, the lambs peaked in their fecal egg count but by week six fecal egg counts were reduced by 27.5%. Genetic differences were analyzed through DNA sequencing of the microsatellite marker CSRD 2138 but no differences were found between the lambs in this study. However, this is the first sequence of this segment and now research can focus on comparing resistant and susceptible genotypes, which will work towards specific identification of resistant individuals.

Not only have these sheep been used for research but have been useful in providing more hands on experience in laboratory courses at the Witter farm. Students have been involved in data collection, maintenance and care of animals and have used this project for their class assignments, senior projects and master’s theses.

The sheep used in this project were loaned to us from the Northeast Katahdin Hairsheep Project located in Buxton, Maine. This is a collaborative project between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Bowdoin College funded by Northeast SARE. Since 2000, Tom Settlemire (Bowdoin College) and Richard Brzozowski (UMCE) have been working to improve the Katahdin sheep through crossbreeding, while maintaining a high level of parasite resistance within the ewe flock.

On April 20, 2005 the NSFA Scholarship Recognition Banquet recognized students and faculty for their academic achievements in the last year. Our congratulations go to Dr. James Weber, who was named the NSFA Outstanding Teacher for 2004. Twenty-five AVS student received departmental scholarships, eight received college scholarships, and two ranked among the college’s highest achieving Juniors and Seniors. Two of our students and two alumni were admitted to vet school: Sarah Cady (AVS/SAG/ BIO) to UPenn, Tyler Cote (AVS/CHY) to Tennessee, Martha Hart (AVS , 2004) to Ross University on St. Kitts., and Christopher Norman (AVS, 1998) to LSU after completing an MS at LSU.

Congratulations also to this year’s graduates. We will miss them all and wish them the very best in achieving their goals.



Thank You!!
Our most sincere thanks to all our friends and alumni for their generous donations. Your financial support helps us expose our students to opportunities that would otherwise be impossible.

Please pass this newsletter to your friends and especially to any UM or AVS alumni for whom we do not have an address. If you send us their address we’ll include them in our next mailing. Please remember to let us know when you change your address as we continue to get 30 – 40 copies returned for every issue.

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Image Description: model of livestock arena

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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