Select Graduate Students Earn Trip to 2022 NMC Annual Meeting

Select Graduate Students Earn Trip to 2022 NMC Annual Meeting

The National Mastitis Council (NMC) selected Annie Fréchette, University of Montreal, Jenna Williamson, University of Georgia, Riitta Niemi, University of Helsinki, and Renata de Freitas Leite, University of São Paulo, as the 2022 NMC Scholars. These graduate students earned an expense-paid trip to attend the 2022 NMC Annual Meeting, Feb. 1-3, in San Diego.

Fréchette graduated in 2011 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and subsequently spent six years in farm animal medicine. Next, she enrolled in an epidemiology master’s degree program. The research team evaluated the risks related to the use of recycled manure solids bedding on dairy cow health and the possible impact on milk quality. As part of her PhD work, Fréchette is further analyzing data collected in the recycled manure solids project. The research group observed that the methods used to produce recycled manure solids bedding did not control zoonotic pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium spp., Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes, which possibly threatens milk quality. Plus, cows housed on recycled manure solids bedding were at much greater risk in developing a clinical case of mastitis due to Klebsiella pneumoniae. Fréchette’s group will continue to analyze the risk of subclinical mastitis associated with this type of bedding, the impact on hygiene and animal comfort, and the ability of recycled manure solids to promote microorganism growth.

A second-year master’s degree student, Williamson’s dairy industry journey began with employment on a private dairy goat farm. She quickly discovered a disconnect between dairy farming and consumers. She began her quest to explain the importance of animal agriculture to consumers. One dairy farmer-consumer disconnect is animal health and antibiotic use. Williamson’s research aims to identify managerial strategies to increase judicious use of antibiotics for mastitis through investigating milk somatic cell counts. She is building her communication skills to convey her research to consumers and dairy producers. Also, Williamson serves as a University of Georgia animal and dairy science department graduate teaching assistant, which involves training and mentoring undergraduate students in dairy and mastitis research, and performing mastitis, mammary health and milk quality research. She presented “Association of pretreatment somatic cell counts with bacteriological cure” during the 2021 American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting.

Niemi spent two years as a dairy practitioner in Finland’s most densely cow-populated region and then returned to the University of Helsinki and joined the ambulatory clinic at the Production Animal Hospital. This role involved serving as a clinical teacher and ambulatory clinic practitioner. In 2018, she began her doctorate degree studies, which focuses on dry cow management and udder health. Niemi’s goal is to produce new, practical scientific knowledge on mastitis that dairy producers can apply to improve their dairy cows’ health and productivity. With increasing consumer and regulatory pressures to minimize antibiotic use in livestock, she is concerned that such management changes may impair animal welfare and create farm economic losses. Her team’s research strives to identify optimal dry-off practices to maintain good udder health and productivity, while implementing prudent antibiotic use. Thus, they are retrospectively evaluating herd- and cow-level Dairy Herd Improvement data, and 2017 survey results from Finnish dairy farmers.

A native of São Paulo (South America’s most populous city), Leite lacked dairy cattle experience when she embarked on her undergraduate studies. With an open mind and strong will, she started on her journey to improve milk quality because she cares about the health and well-being of dairy cows and humans. Leite’s doctorate project involves a multidisciplinary and scientific collaboration with Royal Veterinary College (London), UCL School of Pharmacy (London) and the University of São Paulo. This research group developed polymeric nanoparticles and evaluated their antimicrobial activity against virulent mastitis-causing Staphylococcus aureus. Nanomaterials’ advantages include a sustained release, lower cytotoxicity and higher antimicrobial activity using a lower concentration of antimicrobials due to the larger surface area. Next, the research group plans to develop a dip solution composed by these polymeric nanoparticles to control bovine mastitis and, consequently, improve milk quality using less disinfectant in dairy herds.

National Mastitis Council is a professional organization devoted to reducing mastitis and enhancing milk quality. NMC promotes research and provides information to the dairy industry on udder health, milking management, milk quality and milk safety. Founded in 1961, NMC has about 1,000 members in more than 40 countries throughout the world.

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