Utilizing undergraduate applied research to promote extension and serve the dairy industry


With the changing landscape of agriculture comes a changing demographic of students. Integrating undergraduate students into applied and extension research is necessary to fully prepare our students and continue promoting the importance of extension to our agricultural community. My goal as a specialist in mastitis, mammary health, and milk quality is to recruit and train undergraduates in the field of dairy science with a focus on dairy extension and applied research to benefit to dairy producers. Undergraduate students were trained in on-farm mastitis identification, microbiology/bacteriology, mastitis prevention and control programs, data analysis, and oral presentation delivery. Additionally, students were trained in the principles in extension and the importance of performing unbiased research followed by presentation of findings to the public.


As the dairy industry becomes smaller, including Georgia, the population of extension dairy scientists-in-training diminishes as well. One of the challenges facing academia, including extension, is to train non-agricultural students in basic agriculture principles, including the purpose and benefits of extension. Secondly, teaching undergraduates how to address important questions for stakeholders, i.e., dairy producers, in the form of applied research is critical. Moreover, students must then understand that their good work is only useful if the producers are aware and accepting of the findings.


Over the last year, I had the opportunity to work with students in 2 different applied research trials at the UGA Teaching Dairy to address important questions for our dairy producers. First, a student assessed the ability to target dairy heifers on-farm for intramammary antibiotic therapy without the need to first determine whether bacteria was present or not. The findings were delivered by the student in presentation form as well as integrated into presentations I delivered at various events, including Sunbelt Ag Expo. Additionally, findings will be further integrated into extension publications, including newsletters. Secondly, an additional student assessed a novel bacterial culturing method to rapidly identify mastitis-causing pathogens on-farm. The importance of rapid identification is critical for success of intramammary therapy, which ultimately impacts cow health, well-being, and economic productivity. These findings were also presented in an oral presentation by the student and then included in a dairy extension newsletter.


At various events, producers have asked for additional information about these studies and are interested in discovering more about the potential impact of these strategies in a mastitis prevention and control program. While there is hesitancy in the dairy industry to make changes with the current economic climate, the willingness to consider potential program changes is apparent and promising. In terms of student interest, I have had multiple students inquire about joining conducting applied research with me in the field of dairy mammary health and milk quality. This leads me to believe as an extension dairy scientist and specialist with UGA, we have the potential to “convert” non-agricultural students into well-trained passionate animal and dairy extension scientists.

State Issue

Animal Production


  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: State
  • County: Clarke
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources


    Ryman, Valerie E
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Research Impact