UD students get hands-on animal experience during lambing season

April 17, 2014 under CANR News

UD students spent the month of March on Lamb WatchStudents in the University of Delaware’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences 417 Capstone Course spent the beginning of the spring semester on the farm in the early morning hours of the day or into the early evening on “lamb watch,” keeping an eye out to see if any of the pregnant ewes in the UD flock were about to give birth.

Under the guidance of Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and Larry Armstrong, farm manager, the students spent the month of March — which was peak time for lambing this year — watching over the 52 ewes, which produced 93 lambs. The figures were up from the 81 lambs from 42 ewes last year.

The 30-member class was divided into groups with four or five students per group and an honors student liaison, as the class is also an Honors Program capstone course. Each student had to sign up for six lamb watches during the lambing season in addition to their regular lab meetings once a week.

The earliest shift was from 6-7:30 a.m. and the latest was from 8-9:30 p.m. Each student had to write in a barn journal to provide an update on what they did and what they noticed for the next students scheduled to arrive at the farm, and Griffiths said that before spring break, there had been over 320 entries in the journal.

Griffiths said that if a lamb was born on a group’s watch, that group would take care of the lamb for the semester.

“They are responsible for making the decision as to when it’s appropriate to ear tag and dock their tails. They weigh and record birth weights, 10-day weights, 30-day weights, and they’ll administer their vaccines,” said Griffiths.

She added that this real world, hands-on experience is critical to the development of the students.

“They really learn because when it comes to animal care, there is a much greater responsibility in terms of making sure the task gets done and playing your role,” said Griffiths. “You really have a responsibility and a level of accountability to the other people in your group and to the animals. I think the students learn a lot of people skills, communication skills and time management skills, as they have to relay information accurately and quickly.”

Armstrong noted, “After lambing, the students take an integral part in the challenges that arise from raising one of the world’s oldest domestic animals. The labs have been structured, yet are organic and fun at the same time.”

He added that the students “have done an amazing job of learning management skills and protocols from Dr. Griffiths then helping me to apply their newly learned skills in very real world situations. They learn, teach each other and confidently perform tasks that will put them above and beyond others in their future careers.”

Casey Foreman, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that lamb watch was mostly to make sure everything was proceeding as normal with the ewes and to notify Armstrong or Griffiths if one was having problems delivering.

“The ewes are usually able to give birth without any assistance. Once she has had the lamb, we can go in and clean off the lamb’s nose and mouth to make sure that it is able to breathe. Then we leave it alone so that the ewe can clean it off and begin to take care of it,” said Foreman.

Foreman, who has witnessed three births this lambing season, said her favorite part about the class is working with the animals. “We get to interact with the lambs, weighing them to keep track of their growth, giving them ear tags, and docking their tails. We also have to move the ewes, with their lambs, to different parts of the barn as the lambs get older. From the maternity bay with the pregnant sheep to a jug, an individualized pen where the mom can bond with her baby, and then to a mixing pen where groups of ewes and their babies are brought together again.”

During one particularly difficult lambing session this year, they had to call the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center for assistance, and it just so happened that the center sent a familiar face — Kaitlyn Lutz, a UD alumna who graduated in 2007 with a degree in animal science and pre-veterinary medicine and is a second-year resident at New Bolton.

“To walk in and see her there was really nice,” Griffiths said, “not only because she’s an alum but because she’s interested in small ruminants and it’s not always easy to find a veterinarian with expertise in sheep.”

Lutz said that she currently trains veterinary students on all livestock species — sheep, goats and dairy and beef cows — and because UD is a client, she explained, “The involvement I have here is all on the veterinary side and we come down once a week to take care of any lambing issues and any sick animals. And if there are students here, they get to become involved.”

Lutz said it is great to come back to UD and see the facilities and interact with the people. “It’s really nice to have that involvement and then to also know that when I come back, I can be so proud of what the University of Delaware has to offer,” said Lutz. “All of the facilities are great, the people here are great, and it’s nice to bring vet students here to teach them using such a great facility with good management and have that interaction now that I’ve learned more — and am still learning from the people here.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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UD group visits New Zealand to learn about differences in agriculture

April 1, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Students study in New Zealand learning about pasture growth through cooperative extension and classroom learningA study abroad program in New Zealand during Winter Session brought together undergraduate learning and Cooperative Extension experience, two major aspects emphasized by the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

This unique study abroad program blended classroom, experiential and extension education to deliver a unique discovery learning experience focused on New Zealand agriculture.

The five-week trip was led by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and Susan Garey, animal science extension agent, who explained that the students divided their time between classroom learning and field experience as they traveled to farms and dairies to learn about the differences in farming and agriculture practices between the United States and New Zealand.

Garey said that she liked how the trip tied together the extension and undergraduate aspects of education. “We have the formal lecture in the classroom but getting out to the farm and looking at the blades of grass and seeing how pastures yields are measured and how you determine where to move the cows next in the grazing system, I just think really drives the point home to students.”

The students learned so much about New Zealand dairy and agriculture that two who went on the trip were able to present at Middletown High School at the annual meeting of the Delaware Holstein Association. The students talked about New Zealand agriculture and more specifically, about the dairy industry, such as typical farm size, how milk is marketed and the main products of the industry.

Pasture growth

Griffiths explained that the UD students learned a lot about pasture growth on their trip, both inside and outside of the classroom. Because the animals consume the grass available to them from pasture on farms in New Zealand, rather than being fed grain or harvested feeds, as is the case in America, understanding pasture growth is vital for that nation’s farmers.

The students stayed at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where they visited a 600-cow demonstration farm built to serve as a model for dairy farmers in the region.

Griffiths said the demonstration farm “serves more of an extension role — a place to try new pasture species, closely monitor pasture growth and animal performance, determine environmental impacts and share information with dairy farmers.”

Students learned from the farm manager about the concept of a pasture feed wedge, a graph of the current pasture status by ranking each paddock’s average pasture cover, she said.

“While the graph made it easy to see how much grass is out there for cows to consume, it was not so easy for students to visualize how the farmer gets his/her data on pasture grass production,” said Griffiths. To help farmers and students understand this, the farm staff would walk the pastures every Tuesday.

We showed up at the dairy and walked and measured weekly growth in each of the 21 paddocks. We stopped along the way and learned to evaluate the grass itself,” said Griffiths.

Jenna Wilson, a sophomore majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, said it was clear that the farmers cared dearly about their grass. “They really want the grass to produce well so that the animals produce well. They talked about when they cut it and when they grow it, where they grow it, and how they divide up the pasture.”

Garey added that the need for animals to feed themselves through pasture originated out of necessity because the farmers “don’t have the soil types to grow as much grain as we do here.”

Dairy differences

One of the biggest differences the group learned about was in the management of dairy farms. “New Zealand exports a lot of milk but one of the big cultural differences is New Zealanders are not large consumers of fluid milk,” said Garey, who explained that a majority of that nation’s dairy production is exported in milk powders that are headed to Asia, as well as in baby formula and in products such as cheese and butter.

Garey added that while dairies in America tend to milk their cows 305 out of 365 days of the year, the New Zealand dairies milk their cows around 223 days a year.

Wilson explained that a big difference between the two countries is that New Zealand farms tend to be more hands off and have fewer buildings for the animals.

“They don’t really interact as much with the animals as we do — except for dairying, obviously, because they have to bring them in twice a day. But a lot of the time, they just put the animals out in the pasture and leave them there until they need to shear them or breed them,” said Wilson.

Deer farms

Another difference between the two nations is that in New Zealand there are deer farms.

“At the deer farm that we went to, the farmer was raising them for the velvet. Antlers in the velveting stage get shipped to Asia for medicinal purposes. When they get older they use the deer for meat,” said Wilson, who added that these farms are easy to spot because they have very high fences to prevent the animals from jumping out.

Garey added that the deer on those farms are red deer, which differ from the white tailed deer found in Delaware.

Garey said the deer farms are what she calls a sign of “Kiwi ingenuity,” explaining that because deer — along with other animals — were brought to New Zealand from England, they had no known natural predators and their population exploded. Some New Zealanders decided to trap the animals and farm them in order to harvest either their velvet or their meat, usually focusing on one or the other.

“They do well in the harsher country so it’s a way to use the variability of land,” said Garey. “The south island of New Zealand is very diverse from the flat plains to high country and hill country. The high country environment is much harsher and that would not be good land, necessarily, for milking dairy cattle, but deer can do well in those environments.”

Because of the variability of the land, the farms also have multiple uses, sometimes housing sheep, deer and cattle, instead of focusing on one species.

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UD professor competes in Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race

March 31, 2014 under CANR News

Professor Eric Benson competes in the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog RaceWhen the University of Delaware’s Eric Benson entered the 22nd annual Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race in Maine, the only thing that he did not want to see at the end of the run was the Red Lantern, which is given to the slowest team.

Luckily for Benson, he had put in enough training and his dogs ran fast enough to avoid receiving that “prize.”

Benson, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and his six-dog team finished in 20th out of 26 teams, running the 30-mile race in 4 hours and 19 minutes.

Benson said that he was happy with the result, especially because he and his dogs do not race a lot.

Benson co-owns Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC with his wife, Catherine. Maryland Sled Dog Adventures focuses on teaching people about dog sledding and most of the events are on weekends, which also is when the races are usually held.

Maryland Sled Dog Adventures works many Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, teaching the children about dog sledding. While the opportunity provides the young people hands-on experiences and gives the dogs training, these runs are generally for short distances, not the long 30-mile slogs through the snow that CAN-AM race entailed.

“Our normal business has us doing a lot of short distance, stop, short distance, stop, which is kind of the exact opposite of what we want,” said Benson. “On a given day when we’re running things for Girl Scouts, we might total six or seven miles, when we needed to get up to 30 miles and have the dogs run continuously.”

To supplement the training, Benson said they “did a couple of trips this winter where we went up to Maine and we would run 18-20 mile stretches.”

The week before the race, the team trained in Edmonton, Canada, and did 16-30 mile runs every other day in order to train under similar geography and temperature conditions that they would encounter during the race.

All of the dogs on the team – made up of four dogs owned by Benson and his wife and two dogs owned by friends — are Siberian Huskies, while a lot of the other dogs in the race were Alaskan Huskies.

Benson said that this put his team at a disadvantage because while Siberian Huskies are a registered, pure breed, Alaskan Huskies can be bred with faster types of dogs. “What that lets people do is mix in German short haired pointer, German shepherd, whatever they want — even greyhound — to get the speed that they need. So in any race when they’re in the same field, they will be faster,” said Benson.

The dogs that raced in the Cam-Am were Benson’s dogs Acadia, Sammamish, Beaver and Vale, and his friends’ dogs, Lumos and Yoda.

The dogs trained with Benson throughout the winter, both locally and on trips to Maine. This winter was especially good for training locally because of the numerous storms.

“We did some training here with snow,” Benson said. “We normally assume that we will do all of our training in this area with the wheeled carts, but this year, I think we had seven or eight times we were able to get out and sled. Previous years, we’ve had zero.”

sleddogsbAs for his role on the team, Benson said that for this particular course, the first eight miles were on an old railroad track that was converted to a trail and so from the beginning he had to slow the team down by pumping the brakes in order to save their strength.

After the flat beginning, the team moved into hills and Benson said he started what is known as pedaling, pushing the sled with one foot while the other stays on the sled’s runner. “You give a stride to help the dogs along. The other thing you do is sometimes you carry a ski pole and as you’re running along, you’ll use the ski pole to help add a little bit of energy to the team,” said Benson.

Towards the end of the race, at about mile 22, the elevation started to rise. “From mile 22-28, it was a tough run. A lot of helping the team, a lot of running up the hills, a lot of pedaling, a lot of poling,” said Benson.

As for how he got involved in the sport, Benson said it started when his dog Zoe, who has long since retired, wouldn’t tire out on normal walks around the block. They got into it with a very simple cart and two dogs — the other was named T-Bone — and then started adding dogs and equipment to get to where they are today.

Benson said that it is a little tricky to balance such an intensive hobby with his job as a professor, but that sometimes the two worlds collide nicely. “I did bring some of the sled dogs in last fall for my emergency animal management class when we were talking about working dogs, and that was actually a neat tie-in,” said Benson.

“Working dogs, including sled dogs, are managed very differently from companion animal dogs and having had the sled dogs, I really understand a bit more about that,” he said. “We’re kind of in a transition zone because our dogs are still pets, which is not traditional working dog mentality, but we’ve transitioned more toward a traditional working dog structure and so that definitely fit well for discussions in the emergency animal management class.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Catherine and Eric Benson

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UD students spend winter in Hawaii studying whales

March 17, 2014 under CANR News

Rebecca Moeller spent her winter break in Hawaii studying whalesWhile most Delawareans were inundated with cold and snow this winter, using shovels and plows to get out of their driveways, University of Delaware student Rebecca Moeller was busy working in the warm sunshine with whales in a place known as something of a tropical paradise: Hawaii.

Working in Maui through an internship with the Ocean Mammal Institute, Moeller, a senior majoring in animal science and minoring in wildlife conservation in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said she spent three weeks tracking pods of humpback whales to see what effect boats had on their behavior.

She explained that during four-hour shifts, either from 8 a.m.-noon or 1-5 p.m., she and her team would be stationed on a cliff about a half a mile offshore, or at another location right on the shore, equipped with binoculars and looking for pods of whales.

“We would try to find one pod and then we would keep track of that pod for 20 minutes. Once we had a 20-minute period without a boat near the pod, we would keep track of the behaviors when there was a boat within half a mile, and then again once the boat was out of range for 20 minutes,” explained Moeller.

Tracking behavior wasn’t the only thing Moeller did during her internship, however; she also learned how to use a theodolite — a surveying instrument used to track coordinates — in order to pinpoint the locations where they spotted the pods.

Moeller said that team members would usually work with four or five pods a day and they would do an analysis of the pods at the end of every day.

“We would map them and then record how much down time there was and how many surface behaviors there were,” said Moeller. “Then at the end of the internship, we had to write a research paper using all of the data that we had collected.”

The interns also had to take a three-hour class every night after completing all of their work. So while it’s natural for everyone to hear Hawaii and automatically think of rest and relaxation, Moeller stressed that she spent the majority of her time hard at work.

“We were able to go snorkeling, but that was about the only thing that we had time for. I mean, the condos that we stayed at were right on the beach so we were able to appreciate the beauty of it, but we didn’t get much down time,” said Moeller.

Not that that was a bad thing, especially since she was able to fulfill a lifelong dream. “Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. A lot of people have that phase, only I never really grew out of it. I’ve always just really loved marine mammals,” said Moeller.

She added that the internship would also help her after graduation as she enters the career field.

“In my future endeavors I really want to work in conservation biology for marine mammals and this definitely helped push me in that direction because I always knew that I wanted to be involved with dolphins and whales and porpoises,” she said. “Having this experience kind of showed me that conservation biology is definitely the direction that I want to go.”

Moeller was joined on the trip by another UD student, Alessandra Fantuzzi, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Arthur W. Perdue Graduate Fellowship Program to be established at UD

September 19, 2013 under CANR News

Receiving gift from Perdue Company at the Carvel Research Center.  SHOWN: (l to r) Dr. Jack Gelb, chair of ANFS, Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown of Perdue, and Dr. Mark Rieger Dean of CANR.The Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Perdue Farms, has awarded the University of Delaware $125,000 over the next three-years to establish the Arthur W. Perdue Graduate Fellowship in the University’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

“The college is grateful to Perdue for providing funding for one of our greatest needs, graduate education,” said Mark Rieger, dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Beyond the funding per se, the gift allows for a closer relationship between UD and Perdue, and we will learn much from each other as we collaborate.”

“The generous contribution from the Perdue Foundation will be used to recruit outstanding graduate students to pursue the Ph.D. degree in poultry science,” said Jack Gelb, professor and chairperson of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “In addition to working with faculty at UD, the chosen students will collaborate with scientists at Perdue, and will travel and attend scientific meetings in the U.S. and abroad. We are proud to be the recipient of this gift and look forward to training top young scientists and future leaders in poultry science.”

As Arthur W. Perdue Fellows, the selected students will focus on possible research through the University’s Avian Biosciences Center in the areas of broiler growth and efficiency, muscle biology and physiology, and emerging infectious avian diseases and their control.

Another area of possible research may focus on intestinal microbiology, physiology and impacts on microbial populations, including those that present foodborne disease challenges.

“The University of Delaware has been serving the needs of the poultry industry on Delmarva for more than 50 years,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety and quality at Perdue Farms. “We’re pleased to establish a new legacy of learning and higher education through this grant from the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation. We value the opportunity to provide research opportunities to aspiring scientists whose work will benefit not only Perdue, but others in the poultry industry. We see this as a mutually beneficial partnership.”

About Perdue Farms

Perdue Farms is the parent company of Perdue Foods and Perdue AgriBusiness, and represents the Perdue family ownership.  Since its beginning on Arthur Perdue’s farm in 1920, through expansion into agribusiness and the introduction of the Perdue brand of chicken and turkey under Frank Perdue, to the third-generation of family leadership with chairman Jim Perdue, Perdue Farms has remained a family-owned, family-operated business dedicated to making Perdue the most trusted name in food and agricultural products. To learn more about Perdue, visit the website.

The Arthur W. Perdue Foundation is funded through the estates of Arthur W. Perdue and Frank Perdue. The foundation provides grants on behalf of Perdue Farms in communities where large numbers of company associates live and work.

Photos by Doug Baker

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UD alumna Windle sets off on professional journey with feed company

August 5, 2013 under CANR News

Michelle Windle gets career after time at UDAfter a decade at the University of Delaware, Michelle Windle is beginning her professional career with Vita Plus, a premier agricultural feed company located in Madison, Wis. And to think that it all began with her knocking on the doors of professors in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences during her junior year as an undergraduate looking for a job.

As fate would have it, Windle ended up knocking on the door of Limin Kung Jr., the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal and Food Sciences, and he offered her some hours in his laboratory. “To tell you the truth, at the time I had bright red dreadlocks. I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m glad that he did,” said Windle.

Ten years later, after completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and recently receiving her doctorate from the University of Delaware — and being named a Benton Award winner as the outstanding doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – Windle is heading off to the professional world.

Windle’s duties at Vita Plus will include a variety of activities, which suits her just fine, as she admitted to being a person who enjoys multi-tasking.

A large part of the job will entail conducting research into the development of new forage products for the company but she will also be looking into current vendors and staying up to date on new products, as well as training people on the products they are already using.

She will also be coordinating field research trials, troubleshooting nutritional problems on farms and educating farmers about how to make good silage – fermented feeds that are a major portion of rations fed to dairy cows – and keep healthy cows.

“The bottom line is healthy cows make good milk. So it is to everyone’s benefit to keep healthy cows and to practice good farming methods and management practices,” said Windle. “Technological advances to help with producing milk more efficiently have been coming at such a rapid pace that dairy producers are desperate for education in these areas.”

Windle said that this is the part of her job that she is most looking forward to, “bridging that gap between scientific findings and the every day reality that is farming.”

With regard to the silage aspect of her job, Windle is well-versed in the topic as she was advised by Kung, one of the country’s leading silage experts, and conducted her doctoral research on the subject, specifically looking at how to make starch more digestible earlier in the ensiling process.

“Cows need energy to produce milk and they get a lot of this from starch that is found in the corn fed to cows. So the more digestible the starch is, the more energy they get, the more milk they produce,” said Windle.

Her research looked at how to dissolve the protein matrix in the corn kernel to make the starch more available for digestion by bacteria in the cows’ stomachs. The research conducted by Windle and Kaylin Young, a former undergraduate in Kung’s lab, is continuing into the product development stage with several companies in the feed industry.

In addition to her doctoral research, Windle was also a teaching assistant, instructing classes as diverse as animal nutrition, which she taught for five years, animal production and genetics.

When asked why she decided to stay so long at UD, Windle smiled and said, “I am the poster UD child. I love it here.”

She said she loves the passion that all the professors have for their research, adding all they want to do is “tell you about what they’re working on and invite you to work on it with them. They have such excitement about what they do.”

As for the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in particular, Windle said that they are a very tightknit group, and that everyone in the department was asking her how it went after she had to defend her doctoral dissertation. “What I like the most about this department is the people, the passion and the caring that you get.”

Windle also singled out Kung, who she will forever be grateful to for answering the door that day and giving her an opportunity. “I can’t talk about Dr. Kung enough. I’m not just saying this. The guy is awesome. He’s got drive, excitement, he thinks silage is cool, he’s got the ability to inspire that in other students, I don’t know why he gave me a chance but I’m glad he did. It gave me a setting.”

Asked whether she ever thought about what her life would be like had Kung not answered the door that day, Windle smiled and said, “Honestly, I don’t know what would’ve happened. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I’m really glad that it worked out the way that it did — really, really glad.”

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UD’s Kung teaches silage to Brazilian professors, students

June 24, 2013 under CANR News

Limin Kung, an expert on silage, spreads that expertise to Universities throughout BrazilFor the past 14 years, Limin Kung has served as a bridge between the University of Delaware and various universities in Brazil, linking with more than 20 students and professors from the South American nation through his expertise in the agricultural practice known as silage.

Kung, the S. Hallock du Pont Professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, has had students and faculty members come to UD from three Brazilian universities: Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (ESALQ), which is a unit of the University of São Paulo; the Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (UNESP)-São Paulo State University; and the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV).

The professors and students all came to UD as part of sabbaticals, undergraduate internships or through the Brazilian “sandwich” program, established between universities in the United States and Brazil in which Brazilian Ph.D. students spend one year studying at an American institution sandwiched between their studies at home.

Two students, Renato Schmidt and Mateus Santos, obtained their doctorates while working with Kung through UD-funded grants.

Kung is one of the leading experts on silage in the U.S. and internationally and because of the considerable interest in silage fermentation around the world, he said it made sense to have Brazilian students study with him to learn more about the topic.

Silage is plant material that has undergone anaerobic fermentation, a process similar to the one used when making pickles or sauerkraut, in order to store it properly.

According to Kung, “silage-making started off in temperate climates where people didn’t have the ability to graze during cold weather or they didn’t have the ability to harvest crops all year-round. They wanted to find some way to say, ‘At certain times of the year, I have really high quality stuff here — how can I preserve that and store it when it is at its best and use it as feed year-round?’”

The students who studied with Kung in his laboratory were able to get experience learning about silage on the UD farm in Newark, where they helped Kung with various research studies.

“The type of work that we do with silage, you need lots of people,” Kung said. “There is lots of hands-on activity and it is very labor intensive in the field and in the lab.”

Kung explained that they study silage both before and after they put it in the silo in order to make sure that everything is OK.

“We know what goes in and we try to control what comes out,” he said. “The way that we try to control what comes out is basically to have good management first, which means we have the right moisture and the right packing density. Also, we work on trying to find new types of additives — whether they be chemical or enzymatic or microbial — to improve the process. A huge area of worldwide research is trying to develop different types of additives to make the process better.”

Still, Kung said that silage is not the only reason that the Brazilian students come to UD. “They basically all want to learn more about silage but they’re here for a number of reasons,” he said. “For one, the internships are important for them to experience a different culture, so that they can improve their English speaking skills and then also to do some research. They’re here for the cultural and the scientific experience.”

Kung is also part of a recent grant with Odilon Pereira, a professor at UFV who spent a one-year sabbatical in Kung’s lab at UD. Pereira is linked to the Science Without Borders program and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), the Brazilian Federal Agency for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education, which will involve him teaching silage classes to graduate students as well as conducting seminars and meeting with project coordinators in Brazil.

Article by Adam Thomas

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Students find poultry career opportunities at the International Production and Processing Expo

May 24, 2013 under CANR News

Students found out about Poultry careers at the IPPE expoStudents from the University of Delaware interested in the poultry industry walked away with a lot more than information and a great experience at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association’s International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) held in Atlanta, Georgia. Some even walked away with job offers.

UD sent 11 students to the event as well as Kali Kniel, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS). This year, the IPPE set record attendance numbers with over 25,000 visitors and over 1,000 exhibitors. The expo is the world’s largest annual poultry, meat and feed industry event of its kind and one of the 50 largest trade shows in the United States.

The students had most of their travel expenses covered thanks to a grant received by U.S. Poultry and Egg and also some funding from the UD Career Services Center.

The event was a culmination of UD’s Poultry Careers Seminar Series that the students participated in during the 2012 fall semester. The seminar series was organized by Bob Alphin, instructor in ANFS and manager of the Allen Laboratory, and Kniel, and students learned about the many different opportunities afforded to them by the poultry industry from leading industry professionals, with representatives from Perdue Farms, the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. and Mountaire Farms—among others—coming in to speak with the student participants.

As for the trip itself, Kniel said that she felt like it was a great learning experience for the students.

“I think that was a really good way to boost their interest and learn about the allied industries and the kind of depth in the careers that are available with poultry,” explained Kniel. “Because it’s not just working with live birds and it’s not just working in a processing plant, it’s really all the careers in health and production and it’s just a very broad scope.”

Caryn Deakyne, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), who attended the program, said that the expo, “Completely opened my eyes up to the countless opportunities in the poultry industry as well as other related fields. By attending this expo I was able to really hone in on the specific jobs that I was looking for and spend the most time focusing on them.”

Deakyne added that Kniel was a great person to have on the trip as she was “such a supportive resource, and she even helped push me towards companies that I was nervous to speak with.”

The students got first hand experience with job interviews, as they were able to interview with many companies during the 3-day program.

Nina Lee, a senior in CANR who went on the trip, explained that the interviews were fast paced, set up in 30-minute increments, and took place with leading industry companies such as Perdue Farms, Mountaire Farms, Butterball and Boar’s Head, among others.

Lee said that she found the interviewing process to be the most beneficial aspect of the trip. “I thought I was astute and well poised before interviews, but after interviewing in Atlanta I learned so many tricks and subtle ways to appear more collected, confident, and eloquent. I became a lot more comfortable and was able to read the interviewer’s questions and responses, while answering with concise but well-thought out answers. Essentially, I learned how to genuinely market myself while showing my professionalism and poise.”

Kniel said that every senior who went on the trip walked away with a job offer from one of the leading producers in the poultry industry. She also encouraged students to look into careers in poultry as she said “Careers in the poultry industry are basically recession proof. The companies are continuing to do well, people eat, food is still being produced, and the health of the animals is still important.”

She also noted that the expo is fantastic as “it’s such a friendly environment. Everyone was very warm, very friendly and very excited to meet the students and to talk about the careers and the positions that they had available. There was a lot of enthusiasm.”

As for Deakyne, she said that the trip played a large part in her recent acceptance of a full-time position with Perdue Farms, Inc., and that she will be entering their plant management trainee program in June in Georgetown, Delaware.

Lee has also accepted a position as a plant management trainee with Perdue Farms in their Milford, Delaware processing plant.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD students unveil new food products as part of senior capstone class

May 21, 2013 under CANR News

Edible tape to hold together messy tortillas, non-alcoholic alcohol flavored candies and healthy snack cakes were products developed recently by members of the University of Delaware food science capstone class.

Seniors handed out samples of their food products to members of the University community from 11:30-1 p.m. on Monday, May 13, in the Townsend Hall Commons.

The three student groups — Tortilla Tape, Sober Temptations and Cocoa Jammers — arrived in Townsend to hand out samples and answer any questions visitors had about their semester-long projects.

Putting together the projects was an impressive feat according to Rolf Joerger, associate professor of animal and food sciences, who led the class.

CANR Food Science Capstone class display their products“Three months to develop a new product is a little short but most of the time students manage to complete the task,” explained Joerger. He said each group has to care of all aspects of food product development, including idea generation, recipe development, ingredient acquisition, correct packaging and labeling, and even marketing.

“In the end, it’s supposed to look like a real product,” Joerger said. “For example, on the box, the nutrition label has to be a certain size by law and the package has to have certain pieces of information on it. The students have to look into all of this as far as what they legal requirements are.”

Joerger explained that the three groups had tables set up at Ag Day in order to hand out their products and adjust them according to the feedback they received.

Tortilla Tape

The Tortilla Tape group included food science students Dana Screnci and Lauren Rizzi and Nick Young, a pre-veterinary medicine and animal bioscience major. Their product featured an edible starch-based piece of tape that relies on the adhesive properties of Tylose powder and starch, and is used to bind the tortilla to itself and solve the problem of keeping the actual ingredients inside the tortilla.

Screnci explained that the way the group developed the product was fairly straightforward. “We came up with the idea just by eating a burrito and it falls apart and you need a toothpick, or at the restaurants they have the foil, and we just figured that it would be much easier if there was something they could put on it to keep it together without needing all of the excess materials.”

The group decided — based on the results they got back from surveys — that instead of having flavored or colored tape, most people would prefer to pretend the tape isn’t there.

“As of now, people seem to like that it just blends right in,” said Screnci. She also explained that the group’s idea would be to offer tortilla tape in restaurants as well as in grocery stores.

Sober Temptations

The Sober Temptations group offered non-alcoholic, alcohol-flavored candy. The flavors they handed out were: amaretto sour, blackberry merlot, Belgian golden ale, strawberry ale, pina colada and mojito. The group — made up of Teresa Brodeur, Alyssa Chircus and Angela Ferelli — discovered at Ag Day that certain flavors, especially the blackberry merlot, were more popular than others.

“We got pretty good feedback overall,” said Chircus. “I think we had about 86 percent who said they would actually buy it, so that really fueled us and we made three new flavors within 24 hours.”

Chircus and Brodeur both work at the UDairy Creamery so they were able to use their knowledge and connections to help with their project. “We had a lot of the flavors at the creamery already,” said Brodeur. “My boss was really helpful in letting us test out stuff, and then through the close relationship with them, we had the flavor company already so we could reach out to them and they were willing to send us samples.”

Ferelli explained that their non-alcoholic treats could be served at different sorts of gatherings. “You go to these formal events and you never have anything very sweet, it’s usually very savory. So, we have a great pairing here for any kind of event. We have a range, from elegant and swanky to casual.”

Cocoa Jammers

The Cocoa Jammers group — Amanda Hoffman, Lesley Payonk and Melissa Ehrich — decided to make healthy alternatives to popular snack foods, especially in the wake of uncertainties at Hostess.

“Everyone was really up in arms that they couldn’t get their Twinkies and then we looked up the calories involved in that and how unhealthy that is so our snack cakes have four grams of protein and three grams of fiber,” said Hoffman. “The traditional snack cake has 250 calories while ours only have 90 calories per serving, so it’s less than half. They also have 10 grams of fat while ours have 1.5 grams of fat.”

Hoffman added they had another reason for coming up with a healthy snack cake, as well. “We had a roommate sophomore year who couldn’t eat anything with flour in it so we wanted to come up with a product that tasted good and that was also healthy.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Christy Mannering

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD grad student sets up collaborative research with Brazil’s UFLA

May 2, 2013 under CANR News

During spring break, University of Delaware graduate student Allison Rogers spent a week at Brazil’s University Federal de Lavras (UFLA) to secure future collaborations for research on broiler chickens and to assist Carl Schmidt, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, in his research on the global genomic diversity of chickens.

A self-professed “bird lady” who was named a Plastino Scholar in 2011 and traveled the country discussing the importation and smuggling of parrots into the United States, Rogers was able to set up a collaboration with researchers at UFLA that will see her return to the University in June. Her research deals with studying “the effect of alternative lighting technologies such as LED and cold cathode fluorescent (CCFL) light bulbs on the growth and performance of broiler chickens.”

Allison Rogers traveled to Brazil's UFLA campusRogers, a master’s degree student studying animal science in the laboratory group of Eric Benson, associate professor of animal and food sciences, and Robert Alphin, instructor in the department and manager of the Allen Laboratory, explained that incandescent light bulbs traditionally have been used in chicken houses but now growers are moving toward higher efficiency light bulbs and they want to be able to determine whether or not these new lighting technologies have any effect on the growth of their birds, which would impact them economically.

“Our interest in Brazil, particularly in the region that we’re visiting, is that they’re able to raise their birds in completely open houses,” said Rogers, explaining that the chickens are “enclosed within a house but they have enormous windows that are completely open — they have natural ventilation and natural lighting. That is so different from what we have, which is completely enclosed, artificial ventilation and artificial lighting. I’ll be collecting blood samples upon my return, to compare relative stress levels between birds raised under natural light versus birds raised under artificial light.”

Schmidt added that when Rogers goes back in June, her collaborators at UFLA will have “set up a flock for her. They will grow the chickens for five weeks and in June she will begin sampling the birds to evaluate in a fairly straightforward way their immune function and stress levels, and to be able to compare that with the data she’s collected on her own flocks here in Delaware.”

As for this most recent trip, Rogers was assisting Schmidt with his research, helping to collect genetic samples from backyard chickens that will help aid his studies on the genomics of the common chicken and how they respond to different environments — such as very hot and high altitude environments — with the hope that the genetic information will allow livestock breeders in the United States to improve their flocks.

“We took samples using a piece of paper that has been treated so that you can take one drop of blood from an animal and put it on this piece of paper and it will stabilize the sample and destroy any  viruses or bacteria. It allows you to keep that stabilized sample and then analyze it later on,” Rogers explained.

As one who is enthralled with exotic species of birds, Rogers said that just because she was studying chickens in Brazil didn’t mean that she was not able to see exotic species — sometimes getting to do so without even leaving the UFLA campus. “I got made fun of by Dr. Schmidt because at one point we were on the campus and a toucan flew over head and I was just like, ‘Toucan!’” said Rogers. “It was so exciting to see these species that you would never see in the United States and the people in Brazil are just as excited about them as we are, which is really wonderful. They say they’re really proud that the university has kept enough foliage and enough resources for these birds to still be able to live in this quasi-urban setting. That was really important to them.”

Rogers added that she saw similarities between UFLA and UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, making for a seamless collaborative environment. “UFLA is an agriculturally and historically based university and so we felt very at home when we arrived. There are very strong programs there for horses as well as cattle and so we really just kind of felt at home. Everyone was very welcoming. The students that helped us were just wonderful and so caring.”

About the partnership between UD and UFLA

In 2011, CANR and the College of Arts and Sciences received a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and International Science and Education program (USDA-NIFA-ISE) to continue on a three-year partnership with UFLA.

The hope of this partnership is to establish both long-standing academic programs and research partnerships, with both institutions helping each other in those areas in which their research overlaps.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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