The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with veterinary schools at the University of Illinois, University of Georgia and Kansas State University, has received a grant for $700,000 to develop and implement a National Center of Excellence in Dairy Production Medicine Education for Veterinarians. The funding was awarded through the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to be shared by the four partnering Universities.

“This grant provides a very exciting opportunity to bring educators and veterinary students together for enhanced production medicine training that would not be possible at a single institution,” says Dr. John Fetrow, professor of dairy production medicine, and director of the center.

The money will be used to create a “Center of Excellence” as authorized in the 2008 federal agricultural appropriations bill. This national Center of Excellence will serve veterinary students from the four cooperating universities and function as a template for future centers.

The center will address the ongoing critical need for enhanced education for food animal medicine as the four universities develop and deliver a highly specialized and intensive series of training rotations for senior veterinary students pursuing careers in dairy veterinary medicine.

The $700,000 grant is part of the Higher Education Challenge Grants Program, which makes awards based on how well programs address local, regional, national, or international educational needs, whether they involve nontraditional or creative approaches that can serve as a model, and whether they encourage cooperation among universities and between academia and private business.

“As our nation’s animal production systems change, veterinarians need enhanced and broader education so they can serve those industries and promote safe and wholesome food production and animal welfare,” Fetrow says.

The four universities involved in the National Center of Excellence in Dairy Production Medicine Education for Veterinarians will also partner with the private sector through the University of Minnesota’s Dairy Education Center. Through an affiliation with Davis Family Dairies LLC, and its sister company, Davisco Foods International, the University of Minnesota has access to two private dairy facilities with a combined total of 7,000 milk cows. Davis Family Dairies owns and operates the facilities while the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine provides health care to the herds as part of its teaching program for students interested in careers in dairy medicine.

Students from all four universities will live at the Dairy Education Center during four two-week clinical rotations that focus on dairy health management, production systems, food safety, and food system security.

“This project offers veterinary students interested in serving the dairy food system a unique opportunity for advanced training in a new and more cost-effective way,” says Dr. Trevor Ames, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Students trained in the program will graduate with significantly enhanced skills in dairy veterinary medicine, which will enrich their ability to serve dairy clients and succeed as dairy food system veterinarians. In turn, society will ultimately benefit as these highly trained specialists better protect and serve the national and global food systems. Moving forward, such Centers of Excellence may become the principal way veterinary colleges address educational needs of students who will serve food production systems.”