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National Mastitis Council names 2018 scholars

NEW PRAGUE, MN – The National Mastitis Council (NMC) Scholars Selection Committee chose Heidi Hiitiö, University of Helsinki; Karien Griffioen, Utrecht University; Michael Poindexter, University of Florida; and Asha Miles, Cornell University; as the 2018 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 57th Annual Meeting, Jan. 31-Feb.2, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. Since 2008, NMC has named 44 Scholars through this program.

Hiitiö spent four years as a veterinary practitioner in Finland before embarking on a doctoral program in mastitis diagnostics with polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Simultaneously, she co-founded a private veterinary consulting company that provides herd health services to the country’s dairy farmers. Hiitiö’s career goal is to combine research, practical herd management, business and teaching to implement evidence-based strategies on dairy farms to improve udder health and milk quality. Recognized as an outstanding researcher, she has two first-author publications on the use of PCR in mastitis diagnostics. One manuscript received “Editor’s Choice” recognition from the Journal of Dairy Science.

A dairy farmer’s daughter and veterinary practitioner, Griffioen wants to maintain close ties with dairy farmers as she advances her career in on-farm mastitis diagnostics. Her PhD project focuses on fast(er) mastitis diagnostics that are available, but not used in the Netherlands, and new diagnostics that are being developed. Currently, she is conducting a field trial that uses two on-farm mastitis tests to help farmers make treatment decisions for mild and moderate clinical mastitis. By applying more targeted antibiotic treatments, cows may be treated less often and for a shorter duration. Griffioen has presented her research at the European College of Bovine Health Management in Slovenia and American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.

With an overall objective to minimize the occurrence of infectious mastitis in post-partum dairy cattle, Poindexter’s research focuses on developing new strategies through nutritional feeding and management. By reducing the incidence of mastitis, animal welfare improves. The study involves inoculating late lactation dairy cows with an isolated strain ofStreptococcus uberis to induce mastitis. Once clinical signs appear, cows will receive a placebo or 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 for 10 milkings. This treatment has been shown to increase innate immune defenses of the udder. Poindexter has presented his research at the University of Florida Animal Molecular and Cellular Biology Symposium and 2016 and 2017 ADSA annual meetings.

Miles serves as a teaching assistant for classes while pursuing her doctorate degree. With a strong interest in mastitis heritability, she is addressing the deficiencies of current genetic evaluations and exploring a multi-pronged approach to identify genomic selection markers for mastitis. The study assesses cows’ udder and teat conformation, milk components, occurrence of elevated somatic cell count and clinical mastitis, and milk microbial profile. In addition, her research uses cows’ genomic data and genetic patterns. A preliminary association study showed that a microbiota-based udder health index is highly indicative of mastitis status and will a useful trait index for genome-wide association studies.