Auburn University veterinarian comments on dairy production in current economic climate, how students help operate on-campus dairy

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Dairy farmers are having to adapt to changing market conditions, in addition to the normal hard work required in the profession. Dr. Manuel Chamorro, associate professor of farm animal medicine in Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, comments on the dairy industry in the current economic conditions and how veterinary students help operate the college’s on-campus dairy. June is National Dairy Month.

How have dairy farms/farmers been affected by the current economic climate? 

The greatest cost in dairy production is animal feed. With current economic conditions, the rising price of fuel, fertilizers and feed has had a dramatically negative affect on the already historically low profit margins for dairy producers, especially for small dairy producers and family dairies.

What are some of the major challenges that dairy farmers face today?

Dairy farming is rewarding but is also hard work. Cows must be milked at least twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In addition to the normal demanding work that is required of dairy farmers, the current economic climate has made their work even more difficult. One of the major challenges for dairy producers is that they must adapt to current market conditions and compete efficiently with their product. The Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine is committed to the formation of practice-ready, mixed-animal veterinarians who have a deep understanding of production medicine and herd health and who are prepared to help producers successfully adapt to current challenges.

How many dairy cows currently reside at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine? 

We have approximately 80 head of cattle, counting young calves and adult milking cows. The Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine is one of the few veterinary schools that has its own dairy operation.

Approximately how much milk does the college’s dairy herd produce daily? Where does the milk go and how is it used? 

Our dairy cows are milked twice a day, early in the morning and late afternoon, early evening. Our dairy cows produce on average 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of milk a day. The milk is sold to Mayfield Dairy, a commercial dairy factory in Tennessee. They process the milk (pasteurization, bottling, etc.) and distribute it in fluid form to consumers.

What role do Auburn veterinary students play within the dairy?

Our third- and fourth-year veterinary students play a critical role while they are on their dairy clinical rotation. Students receive firsthand experience with food production medicine as well as food safety and quality control. They also gain a better understanding of the vital part that food production veterinarians play in the supply chain and in delivering a safe product for consumer consumption. 

Why is it important that Auburn continue to educate future veterinarians about the dairy industry and other areas of food production veterinary medicine? 

It is important because the growth in the human population demands the production of high-quality protein of animal origin. Veterinarians in general, especially food animal practitioners, are essential to guaranteeing the production of a high-quality, safe product, maintaining and promoting animal well-being and assuring the sustainability of livestock production systems.  

About Dr. Manuel Chamorro:

Dr. Manuel Chamorro is an associate professor of farm animal medicine in Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. His primary clinical interests include medical and surgical conditions affecting food animals, especially cattle, and his research concentrates on respiratory viruses of cattle. He earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree at the National University of Colombia, a master’s degree in large animal internal medicine at Auburn and a doctorate, also at Auburn, in infectious diseases of cattle.