Students selected as NMC scholarsThe National Mastitis Research Foundation (NMRF) board of directors named Amanda Sterrett, University of Kentucky; Roxann Weix, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Diana Sorg, Technische Universität München, Germany; and Joren Verbeke, Ghent University, Belgium, as the 2012 National Mastitis Council (NMC) Scholars.

These graduate students posses a strong interest in mastitis control, udder health and quality milk production. NMRF, through the NMC Scholars program, provides funding for these students to attend and participate in NMC's 51st Annual Meeting, Jan. 22-24, 2012, in St. Pete Beach, Fla.

The goal of the NMC Scholars Program is to support the development of future milk quality researchers and specialists.

Working on her master's degree, Sterrett completed a comprehensive assessment of management practices related to low somatic cell count in Kentucky. Her master's research also included using precision dairy technologies to monitor dairy cow health and behavior. This project will help determine the effectiveness of precision dairy technologies and evaluate relationships between data from each technology and ambient weather information. For her doctorate dissertation, Sterrett plans to use these technologies to monitor cow behavior and health - particularly mastitis. The purpose of this project is to determine the effectiveness of precision dairy technologies in identifying illnesses before clinical signs are observed in order to understand the physiology behind diseases.

A veterinarian pursuing a master's degree, Weix practiced veterinary medicine for two years in private practice as a dairy cattle and small ruminant practitioner. While in practice, she implemented milk quality and mastitis control programs for several dairy herds and one goat dairy. Weix's current research focuses on identifying management practices on organic and conventional dairies that improve animal health and well-being, with a strong emphasis on milk quality, including milking procedures, mastitis definitions and perceptions, mastitis treatments and procedures, individual animal milk cultures, bulk tank cultures and quality, and records of mastitis cases. She enjoys working with dairy producers to implement milk quality programs and troubleshoot milk quality challenges.

Sorg, a doctoral candidate, is studying the innate immune response of primary bovine mammary gland epithelial cells to the mastitis pathogens Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus on gene expression and protein secretion level. Her research compares the immune response of two modern dairy breeds - Brown Swiss and Red Holstein in Germany - to two rare and valuable ancient breeds - White Park and Highland cattle in the United Kingdom. These two ancient breeds are known for their phenotypical resistance to mastitis. She hopes to find clues about possible genetic factors for mastitis resistance. These genetic factors could then be used for genomic selection in dairy cattle.

Pursuing a doctorate degree, Verbeke's research focuses on two genes and their relation to dairy heifer udder health, particularly better prevention of heifer mastitis. The major goal is to analyze to what extent mutations in the CXCR1 and CXCR2 genes explain variability in innate immunity of the udder and susceptibility toward mastitis pathogens of early lactating heifers. This information could be used in selecting highly productive and more sustainable dairy cattle. As a veterinary student, Verbeke performed research on mastitis in Jimma, located in southeast Ethiopia. This research focused on the relationship between micromineral status and mastitis in urban dairy farms.