The National Mastitis Council (NMC) Scholars Selection Committee chose Sefinew Mekonnen, Utrecht University; Kruthika Patel, University of Minnesota; Rienkje van Hoeij, Wageningen University; and Amy Vasquez, Cornell University, as the 2017 NMC Scholars. This program recognizes full-time graduate students interested in controlling mastitis, promoting udder health and improving milk quality. The recipients receive an expense-paid trip to attend the National Mastitis Council 56th Annual Meeting, Jan. 29-31, 2017, in St. Pete Beach, Fla.
Mekonnen spent six years as a field veterinarian in Ethiopia before embarking on a master’s degree in veterinary microbiology and teaching veterinary clinical medicine courses. He explained that the support of veterinary service to Ethiopian dairy farmers is not systematically designed, so he wants to improve this situation. To achieve that ambition, Mekonnen is a PhD candidate, aiming to identify effective strategies for management and control of mastitis. His research identifies bacterial causes of mastitis and their transmission dynamics by using biochemical and molecular techniques.
A native of India, Patel developed an interest in microbiology and mastitis as a fourth year veterinary medicine student. During her clinical training at the teaching hospital, she encountered many cases of mastitis – India’s most common dairy cattle disease. In Minnesota, she managed and completed a pilot study that evaluated the effect of applying selective dry cow therapy, at the quarter level, on measures of udder health and antimicrobial use, as compared to blanket dry cow therapy. For her major thesis project, Patel is investigating the relationship between bedding bacterial counts and udder health on more than 200 U.S. dairy farms in 19 states.
Following veterinary school, van Hoeij embarked on a doctoral program to gain experience as a professional researcher, in preparation for a scientific career in academia or industry. Her tailored dry period research evaluates the effect of a shortened or omitted dry period on elevations of somatic cell count, intramammary infections and occurrence of mastitis in the dry period and subsequent lactation. At the 2015 Animal Nutrition Research Forum in Belgium, van Hoeij won the best presenter award. She also presented research at the European College of Bovine Health Management and American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting.
As a PhD candidate working with the Quality Milk Production Services staff, Vasquez observes environmental factors and cow interactions on dairies and subsequently uses tangible microbiological results to recommend treatments on a case-by-case basis or herd-level recommendations based on the typical pathogens. Concerned about the limited number of science-based herd health protocols, Vasquez is involved in a selective dry cow therapy trial, which uses a culture-independent, computer-adaptable algorithm that is easily used on farm. Before moving back to New York, Vasquez worked as a veterinarian in California and taught at Modesto Junior College.