Next-Gen Vets Compete for Morrison Swine Innovator Prize

University of Minnesota veterinary professor Perle Zhitnitskiy, DVM, MSpVM, congratulates Morrison Swine Innovator Prize winner Zack Talbert, a University of Illinois veterinary student. ( University of Minnesota )

If you’re looking for the future of veterinarian technology, it’s here in the form of motivated students. 

The students competing for the Morrison Swine Innovator Prize present show-stopping research that is a must-see at the Allen D. Leman Swine Conference. During the session, Clinical Cases and Problem-Solving Skills by DVM students, five outstanding young people shared their research and analysis of problems in the pork industry. 

The winner of this year’s prize, Zack Talbert, presented “A New ‘Twist’ to a Currently Failing Fumigation Room.” Talbert, a third-year University of Illinois veterinary student, discussed how current fumigation rooms are failing in effectiveness. He also suggested a prototype device for making fumigation practices more efficient based on research from trials he ran at his house.

“The disinfectants are working, that’s not the problem,” Talbert said. Currently, most swine farms utilize wire shelving in a fumigation chamber to remove harmful pathogens before they enter a swine barn. The items may be placed side-by-side or they may be stacked on top of each other—however, this decreases the fumigant’s effectiveness, he said.

Talbert’s solution was to create a steel prong that holds objects aloft and, using a pulley system with a motor, turns the objects rotisserie-style during fumigation to ensure all surfaces are covered. His dad and brother are iron workers who helped him create a patent-pending prototype.

“Every biosecurity practice is important these days,” Talbert said, “so we should make sure each action is as effective as possible. For several diseases, we need to do a better job of reducing the entry of pathogens by fomites.” 

This is the second year of this competition and the second year for a University of Illinois vet student to bring home the top prize of $7,500 plus complimentary registration and travel costs to attend the Leman Swine Conference. 

“This opportunity allowed me to gain confidence in myself speaking in front of others and it has motivated me to continue thinking of ways to help the swine industry, both the pigs and people involved in it,” Talbert said. “It also allowed me to network with people in the industry and make connections that will hopefully help me with future employment opportunities.”

The prize honors the legacy of the late Bob Morrison, DVM, PhD, MBA, who coordinated the conference for many years. 

In addition to Talbert, Justin Moeller of The Ohio State University discussed the occurrence of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) outbreaks in relation to their distance from slaughterhouses and weather conditions. Heather Walker of The Ohio State University showcased how to use tonsil scrapings to detect PRRS virus in growing pig populations. Auburn University’s Jonathan Tubbs discussed eliminating Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae via aerosolized lung homogenate. And Gabrielle Fry shared her work on detecting Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae by PCR in processing fluids.