AU-courses 9/6/96

Lara J. Aldrich, 844-3698


AUBURN -- "NEWS FLASH! Auburn really is a 'Cow College'." And a darn good one, at that.

Since the early 1970s, Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine has operated its own dairy as an educational tool for veterinary students.

Dr. Gatz Riddell, associate professor of large animal surgery and medicine, says the college maintains a herd of 20 to 30 dairy cows for teaching and research

Though most AU veterinary students will never work in a dairy or possibly even treat a dairy cow, every senior veterinary student spends three weeks in rotation milking cows at 4:45 a.m. each day.

Riddell, who is president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said the program familiarizes tomorrow's veterinarians with milking techniques and regulations, as well as giving them an overview of the science involved in reproduction, nutrition and feeding of dairy cows.

Sarah Jacobsen of Opelika, a senior veterinary student in the advanced dairy program, said having the dairy at the college offers an advantage over other veterinary programs.

"If I weren't at Auburn, I would never see the production side of it," she said. "Any school can teach anatomy, but if you've never been there and worked with the animals, you aren't qualified to tell a dairy farmer what's wrong with his cow."

Students say access to the teaching herd gives them hands-on experience, not just with milking, but calving and day-to-day care, which they must have if they will work with or treat dairy cows.

Riddell said AU faculty also use the cows for research in seeking the causes of and treatments for mastitis, a common inflammation that leads to milking problems in dairy cows. Faculty are also investigating common liver problems and maternal protec tion in dairy cows.

The state of Alabama is home to only about 40,000 dairy cows, not exactly a leader among the nation's dairy states. But Auburn has the strongest dairy program among U.S. veterinary colleges, Riddell said.

"A few other schools have dairies, but none use them to the extent that Auburn does," said Riddell.

The program has been recognized by many in the dairy industry. "When the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State began building its dairy in the 80s, it was modeled after Auburn's," Riddell said.

In 1982, the college began selling its milk to the Mid-American Dairymen's milk co-op.

"The teaching herd produces less milk than the average commercial cow, but we get so much more out of the program than milk," said Jacobsen.

Riddell said the program makes "more than enough money to break even, not counting the teaching value of the herd."

The Mid-American Dairymen is a nationwide milk co-op, but the majority of the milk stays in Alabama, Riddell said. So, that quart of milk you pick up at the grocery store today may have originated in the dairy at the "cow college" of Auburn Universi ty.

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CONTACT: Riddell, 844-4490.