New AGcelerate program provides CANR freshmen with support

April 10, 2014 under CANR News

UD's new AGcelerate program sets students on the path to successLast fall, University of Delaware faculty members Erin Brannick and Tanya Gressley welcomed the inaugural 30-member class to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) AGcelerate Program.

Funded through the President’s Diversity Initiative, the AGcelerate program is designed to foster a sense of community, to prepare students for academic success by giving them peer and faculty mentors, and to help them make important contacts in the real world to secure internships and promote career development.

“We just opened it up to freshmen this year and we have about 30 freshmen enrolled. We paired them all with peer mentors, so we have 22 peer mentors that are a part of it, also,” said Gressley, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Brannick, assistant professor in the department, added that the program is “tailored for individual support. We have students that may want to be a part of this program for the tutoring that’s offered here on South Campus.”

Brannick added that group tutoring sessions are held once a week on Tuesdays, from 5-7 p.m. in 049 Townsend Hall.

In addition to tutoring, the students also get mentoring from peers and can request a faculty mentor, in addition to their regular faculty member adviser.

Brannick explained that the peer mentoring is more focused on having the freshmen learn the ropes of the University, while the faculty mentors help give the students career attention and career planning advice.

The program also brings resources directly to the students. For instance, Joyce Henderson, assistant director at the University’s Career Services Center, spoke to program members about opportunities available to them.

“We do a weekly discussion thread through our campus site that usually relates to either campus resources or to how students learn and study, giving tips and advice about any detailed support that they can share with each other,” said Brannick. She added that the group also has weekly prize giveaways, such as gift cards to bookstores or restaurants on Main Street, to encourage the students to contribute to the discussions.

In addition, Brannick said many of the students enjoy the fact that the group is close-knit. “The students have indicated that another major factor for them is just the friendships and that idea of camaraderie in the group and feeling like they have other people to go to when they need help, or knowing who to approach when they’re looking for assistance beyond what they can find on their own,” said Brannick.

The group also participates in off-campus excursions, such as going to Milburn Orchards in the fall, and in service learning activities, such as planting beach grass at the Delaware shore.

Gressley said the hope is that students who are taking the program as freshmen will come back and serve as peer mentors for the next group as they continue their college careers.

There are also funds allocated to “support travel to conferences and internships and in the future we hope to kind of team up a little bit to help get them internships in their fields,” said Gressley. “This year is predominantly about academic success but then as they mature, we want to get them to hit the ground running. Once they’re running, we’ll focus more on leadership skills and career building.”

Brannick added that the program is designed to “support students as they develop so it’s everything from hitting the ground running and finding everything that you need around campus to being successful and to wanting to stay at UD and at our college. And there is that next phase about how to develop themselves while they’re here to become leaders.”

The AGcelerate program is teaming up with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) to host two booths at Ag Day on April 26 and they will host a MANRRS reunion panel on May 2 in the Townsend Hall commons from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with a panel discussion from 11 a.m.-noon and lunch from noon-1 p.m.

AGcelerate has open enrollment and is open to CANR students in all fields of study.

Those interested in applying for the AGcelerate program should email the group at AGcelerate@udel.edu.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Share

Department of Animal and Food Sciences holds 6th annual Student and Graduate Picnic

May 14, 2013 under CANR News

ANFS holds 6th annual picnicOn Friday, May 10, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) held its 6th annual Student and Graduate Picnic, with this year’s theme being “The Hungry Games,” from noon to 1:30 p.m. on the Webb Farm.

The picnic was organized by students in Tanya Gressley’s dairy production class. Gressley, associate professor of animal and food sciences, had her students divided into teams of three or four and assigned each team a specific task—such as designing t-shirts, collecting photos and creating thank you posters for the staff—to complete.

Beautiful weather, cow print table clothes and balloons helped add to the festive nature of the day as Gressley and Jack Gelb, chairperson of ANFS, welcomed everyone to the event and offered remarks on the graduating seniors.

The farm staff was thanked by the students, some of which put on a skit to show their appreciation to the farm staff that has helped them out over the years.

Share

CANR alum Kaitlin Ricketts interns at Meadowset Farm and Apiary

December 4, 2012 under CANR News

Until last April, University of Delaware alum Kaitlin Ricketts didn’t know much about sheep cheese. Now, her job revolves around it.

Ricketts, who graduated from UD in the spring of 2012 from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary and animal biosciences, is the farm intern at Meadowset Farm and Apiary in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Meadowset, a farm that focuses on practicing sustainable farming to produce all of their products, is a sheep micro dairy owned by Tom Schaer and Barbara Dallap Schaer—both of whom are large animal veterinarians.

Meadowset sells sheep cheese, eggs, lamb, honey and other various farm products available at the farm’s store. The cheese can also be found Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pennsylvania, and at the restaurants Talula’s Table in Kennett Square and Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia.

Ricketts explained that the micro dairy, which milked 28 sheep last season, has two different styles of sheep cheese: pecorino and tomme. “The pecorino, which is an Italian style cheese, is very comparable to a parmesan, and the other one is a tomme, which is a washed curd cheese which reduces the acidity making it a milder cheese,” said Ricketts.

Ricketts said that while her official title is ‘Farm Intern,’ she has various responsibilities on the farm. “My duties range everything from just your every day feeding to watching to see what the animals’ health levels are, and I’m also running the farm store on the premises so I’m dealing with people directly, selling products and trying to market our cheese a little bit.”

This last part has been the most eye opening for Ricketts, as she explained that she did not take a lot of food-agriculture classes while at UD. “I’ve been going around to local natural food markets and dropping off samples of lamb and trying to make sales there which is pretty new to me,” said Ricketts. “I’m kind of learning that all on my own.”

What she did have while at UD was a lot of hands on experience working at a dairy, which she said was one of the main reasons she came to study at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore so there was no farming background,” said Ricketts. “I came to Delaware because of the Ag school and because of the farm being right there. That was a big draw to me and I started working on the UD Dairy farm my sophomore year so that’s where my interest really started.”

Ricketts, who also raised seeing eye dogs for the Puppy Raisers of the University of Delaware (PROUD) organization on campus, fed the calves and milked the cows while at the UD farm, all the while trying to pick up as much knowledge as she could from Richard Morris, dairy manager, and the rest of the UD farm staff.

Explaining that her original plan was to go to veterinary school, Ricketts said she eventually realized that vet school just wasn’t in the cards at this point and time in her life. “Working on the farm and being in classes like professor Tanya Gressley’s ‘Dairy Production’ sort of opened up my eyes to the fact that there are probably other things out there that can make me just as happy as being a veterinarian,” said Ricketts. “Vet school isn’t for everyone and I just kind of hit a wall one day and had that realization that there are others things that I think I need to look into before I say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go to vet school.’”

Still, sometimes working on the farm comes as a shock to her. “If you would’ve told me my freshman year that I was going to be working at a dairy farm making cheese I would’ve said you’re crazy,” said Ricketts.

She said that her favorite part about working on the farm is getting to work outdoors. She also said that she enjoys getting to have her old sorority, Sigma Alpha, come out to the farm to do service projects and that those in the sorority who are interested in pursuing veterinary careers get to learn first hand from the farm owners. Ricketts said that Tom and Barbara Schaer are “great people and they’re very enthusiastic about what they do so it’s kind of hard to not love your job when you’re working for people like that.”

“A lot of the girls in Sigma Alpha are still very much in the mindset of going to vet school so them talking to Tom and Barb I think is helping them figure things out too,” said Ricketts. “So that’s been really exciting for me, the past couple of weeks being able to connect everything that I’ve had in my life the past couple of years.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Share

UD’s dairy team works on producing milk, aiding research

June 28, 2012 under CANR News

National Dairy Month officially ends at midnight on July 1. Merely four and one-half hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, the University of Delaware Dairy staff will be right back where they’ve always been — hard at work milking the herd.

Cows are milked twice a day on the dairy farm, with a morning milking running from 4:30-7:30 a.m. and an afternoon milking taking place from 3:30-6 p.m.

Richard Morris, dairy manager, explained that the milking is done by one of the farm’s two full-time employees. Ron Gouge, farm assistant, usually handles the milking, working five days a week and milking every other weekend, while Mark Baker, farm assistant, is responsible for feeding the cows, cleaning the barns and helping out with maintenance.

Student workers also help out with the milking of the cows and when asked how the student employees have been about getting up at 4:30 in the morning, Morris is quick to say that they have been great.

“The past few years we’ve actually had pretty good luck of getting students that would do the morning milking,” said Morris. “Usually we would just do the morning milking ourselves, and then afternoons we would always have help, but I’d say the past two years we’ve had quite a few morning milkers.”

With the two milkings, the UD Dairy produces 85 pounds of milk per day, or between 9-10 gallons per cow, which is up significantly since Morris began working on the farm 26 years ago when the dairy produced around 6-7 gallons of milk per cow per day.

Once the milk is produced on the farm, it is put in a cooling tank, chilled at 38 degrees and then picked up every two days by Hy-Point Dairy.

Hy-Point then pasteurizes and homogenizes the milk to make it suitable for drinking, and some of it is sent back for use in the UD dining halls. Additional UD-produced milk is used in cafeterias at public schools in New Castle County.

Hy-Point also sends a portion of the milk it receives from the UD Dairy to Cumberland Farms in New Jersey, where it provides the base mix for the ice cream served at the UDairy Creamery.

Morris’ job also includes helping out UD faculty with their research, specifically the work being done by Limin Kung, professor, and Tanya Gressley, assistant professor, both in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“A lot of time and work is put into helping them do their research,” said Morris. “Usually when we’re assisting with their research, they have a graduate student assigned to that project, so we work a lot with the graduate student.”

Morris explained that helping with the research involves determining which cows the researchers will use, getting the research equipment set up and letting the researchers know what feed they need to use for the study.

Kung said that the dairy staff has been “successful in operating as a normal dairy farm and addressing the needs for research. On a day-to-day basis, Richard Morris, Ron Gouge and Mark Baker are an outstanding group of individuals that keep animal health and production at their best. Whether its 10 degrees or 100 degrees Fahrenheit, these individuals are constantly looking out for the animals.”

Kung also highlighted Scott Hopkins, farm superintendent, Charlie Willis, farm assistant, and Albert Nojunas, farm assistant, for playing key roles in producing forage for the dairy cows to eat.

Farm improvements

During his 26 years working on the UD farm, Morris has seen a lot of changes but perhaps none more so than in 2007 when the farm was upgraded with new equipment including a new milking parlor, a state-of-the-art manure processing barn which includes a 1.2 million gallon manure tank.

The milking parlor, which opened in 2008, has helped to cut the milking time in half, and provided better lighting, ventilation, and comfort for both the employees and the cows.

Gressley explained that one of the improvements to the parlor involves the cows wearing transponders around their necks in order for a computer to identify what particular cow is in which stall in the parlor. The computer can then record how much milk each cow produces, so the milk production is known for each individual cow during every milking.

“The big thing you can tell is who are your really good cows and who are your not so great cows,” said Gressley.

With regards to cow comfort, Gressley explained, “We have very comfortable stalls, and the reason we have very comfortable stalls is they are filled with sand, really the best option that’s out there. The cows really like that — it gives them mobility to get up and down, and it’s comfortable for them.”

The sand is also able to be recycled, thanks to the new manure processing system which separates the solid and liquid manure from the sand, allowing the sand to be re-used for the cow bedding, cutting down on costs.

As far as the manure improvements go, it has benefitted both the dairy and the UD farm in general. The solid manure produced on the farm is hauled away by a local farmer, while the liquid manure is stored and then applied to the UD cropland in a timely manner, providing most of the fertilizer necessary to grow crops.

The manure processing barn is also equipped with a 9.6 kilowatt solar panel system, 44 solar panels in all, which helps augment the electricity cost when the processing barn is being used, producing an estimated 11,000 kilowatt hours per year.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Share

Animal Science Club excels in quiz bowl at NESA Competition

March 23, 2012 under CANR News

The University of Delaware Animal Science Club had a strong showing in the quiz bowl portion of the 2012 Northeast Student Affiliate (NESA) competition hosted by the University of Maine on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The quiz bowl took place in a bracket system, with the UD teams competing against 49 other teams from 10 universities, which this year included schools such as Penn State University, Rutgers University and the University of Maryland.

The eight students representing UD were split up into two teams of four, UD teams A and B. Team B placed 10th overall, earning itself a blue ribbon handed out at the competition’s awards banquet.

Laura Nemec, laboratory coordinator in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the club adviser who went with the group to the competition, said that the teams from UD “were a great mix of freshman through seniors and many had little to no experience with NESA previously.”

Explaining that UD team B missed out on advancing in the quiz bowl by only one point, Nemec said that the Animal Science Club members “did a fantastic job this year and are already looking for more new members and practicing questions for next year at Rutgers. I could not be more proud of the NESA teams and Animal Science Club.”

The rounds were made up of 20 questions each, with the teams getting buzzers to ring in with the correct answers. Questions consisted of general agricultural questions, but also involved some bio-anatomy, biology and some trivia about the host school sprinkled into the competition, as well.

To prepare for the quiz bowl, Jennifer West, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and president of the Animal Science Club, explained that the students used questions from the previous year’s competition and began to study them over Winter Session. The questions also helped pass the time as they prepped on their 11-hour car ride to Maine. Another way that they prepared was having UD professors come in and “speak with us and give kind of quick mini-lectures about what they teach.”

These lectures covered topics such as anatomy, genetics and nutrition. Faculty who spoke to the club included Carissa Wickens, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, Robert Dyer, associate professor of animal and food sciences, Carl Schmidt, associate professor of animal and food sciences, and Tanya Gressley, assistant professor of animal and food sciences.

Quiz bowl was only a portion of the NESA competition, which also included a livestock judging competition and a paper presentation.

Ariana Shakory, a sophomore in CANR, explained that the club had help in preparing for the livestock judging portion of the competition. Club members visited the University of Delaware dairy farm and learned and practiced dairy cattle judging with Richard Morris, dairy manager at the UD farm, which Shakory called “a good experience and good practice.”

For the paper presentations, each team selected one team member to give a presentation. The two members from UD were West and Jessica Applebaum, a junior in CANR. West’s paper focused on “Antibiotic Resistance and the Transmission from Livestock to Human Consumption,” while Applebaum’s dealt with “Mastitis in Dairy Cattle,” an inflammation of the udders.

While the team is already looking forward to next year’s event at Rutgers, they also have their eye on eventually hosting the event at UD because, as West explained, “with the shorter travel distance it would cost less and we could take more than two teams. We would really love to bring NESA back to UD — it would be really fun to do all the behind the scenes planning.”

According to Sara Hobson, a CANR senior and vice president of the Animal Science Club who chaired this year’s NESA planning committee, the last time UD hosted the event was 1996.

About the Animal Science Club

For anyone interested in joining the Animal Science Club, it meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Room 107 of Sharp Laboratory.  While the majority in the club are Animal Science majors, that is not a pre-requisite to join as the club accepts students from all majors.

The club prides itself on providing a great opportunity for hands-on experience and involvement in the community. The club members volunteer at local farms and animal shelters, and they regularly have guest speakers from places like Carousel Farms come in to talk with the group about a variety of experiences.

Applebaum explained that she got involved with the club because, “I really want to go to vet school and I feel like the hands on experience would really help me and they bring in speakers from different places, like vet schools and animal organizations, and you also get to meet a lot of people on campus.”

The club’s advisers are Laura Nemec and Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

For more information on the Animal Science Club, visit their website or e-mail Jennifer West or Nina Lee, junior in CANR and secretary of the Animal Science Club.

Article by Adam Thomas

Share