Dairy at the Sunbelt Ag ExpoUGA Animal and Dairy Science students are currently doing some amazing work that is expected to benefit farmers. One of these is looking at the voluntary waiting period, essential to monitoring cows’ reproductivity.  Once monitored, they can be put on an artificial insemination schedule to be bred at an appropriate time. Another study is the research seeking ways to improve calf and heifer housing conditions across the state, so that producers are more efficient. The students that are providing the agricultural community with this information do not necessarily come from an agricultural background, but that does not take away from the work they are doing.

Ansley Roper, a first-year master’s student in the Animal and Dairy Science program, is from Cartersville, Georgia. She did not grow up with an agricultural background. Her mother was a middle school teacher and her father a pilot. The agricultural industry was not in Ansley’s plans. When she started school at the University of Georgia, she had planned to be a small animal veterinarian. Studying quickly began taking up all her time, but she needed something more. That was when she applied to the UGA Teaching Dairy for a job. She states that was when history started. She fell in love with the industry. Her passion for it led to her joining the UGA Block and Bridle club as well as UGA Dairy Science Club where she held officer positions. One of her upcoming projects she is eager to share with the industry is with Dr. Sha Tao. They will be studying Holstein calves and looking at the environmental effects and housing strategies on calf and heifer growth. Ansley states her ideal career would be to “work with Georgia Milk Producers or the Dairy Alliance communicating with the public and producers.”

Another student excelling in the program is Sarah Johnson. She is a second-year master’s student from Canton, Georgia. Canton is a suburb just north of Atlanta. To be expected, there is not much agriculture in the area. Her interest in agriculture started when she was exploring her options for college. She realized she wanted to work with animals. That led her to taking a class called “Applied Reproduction.” In that class, they worked closely with the UGA dairy farm, where her interest in dairy started. Since then, she has begun working on a project that is characterizing postpartum resumption of cyclicity using activity monitoring systems and its impact on future heat characteristics and reproductive parameters. Her end goal for this project is for farmers to realize that the voluntary waiting period is essential in getting a heifer, who did not regain proper cyclicity, artificially inseminated on the right time schedule. After college, Sarah said she wants to “work for an animal technology company in a role that bridges the knowledge gap between farmers and the technical side of the programs.”

Jenna Williamson, a master’s graduate in May of 2022, is also from Carrolton, Georgia. Jenna also grew up without an agricultural background. Her mother was a hair stylist, and her father manages a security company. Jenna came into the agricultural industry when she started attending the University of Georgia to practice small animal medicine. It was not until she had taken a large animal class and lab when she changed her focus. After changing, she began working at a small dairy goat farm and then began having a growing interest in the dairy industry. She then decided she would pursue a master’s in animal and dairy science, with a focus on dairy cattle milk quality and mammary health. Since doing so, she completed a project, which was investigating the milk microbiome to promote mammary health in dairy cows. Her end goal was to discover a commensal microbiota population in milk that could be useful in preventing mammary diseases like mastitis. Since the completion of the project and her master’s, Jenna stated she wants to “continue working with the dairy industry and further improve milk quality and mammary health for happier cows, happier farmers, and happier consumers.”

Dairy at the Sunbelt Ag Expo