“No one will ever have a reason to complain about the way I fill out health papers after I get out of school,” said Chelsea Crawford, first year student at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM). Crawford was referring to health papers necessary to transport a cow to the World Dairy Expo. She was one of 60 students participating in a program established by Dr. Sheila McGuirk, professor of Large Animal Medicine and Food Animal Production Medicine at the SVM, to help the Expo check in over 2,000 show cows coming to Madison.
World Dairy Expo management wanted to improve its biosecurity, but they recognized they would need assistance beyond what was available from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP) veterinarians, the group typically assigned to monitoring health requirements of arriving cattle. The goal was to have every cow checked before it got off the truck or trailer that it arrived in. But these cattle would be arriving continuously over a period of 52 hours from all over North America. Cattle that have been on a trailer for long periods of time, need to be unloaded, milked and bedded down in straw as soon as possible after arrival. Any obstacle to an efficient unloading process would be a problem.
Mark Clark, manager for the World Dairy Expo, and Bob Kaiser, the dairy cattle superintendent, asked Dr. McGuirk for ideas about how to address this issue. She created a one-credit class on the biosecurity of show cattle for SVM students and invited any other volunteer participants. Each individual would attend an orientation on show check-in procedures. The students and volunteers then signed up for two eight-hour shifts checking the cows and their certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) as soon as they arrived at this world class show. They, along with Dr. McGuirk and DATCP veterinarians, made sure that every cow unloaded matched an animal listed on the CVI, either by using an official identification tag, metal ear tag, tattoo, or registration paper.
“The first year we did this I put notices around the school looking for volunteers or students who wanted to earn one credit,” said McGuirk. “I had about 20 students. This past year more than 40 people signed up, including students participating for a second year because of the great learning experience and the opportunity to see elite cattle and meet exceptional exhibitors.”
“I had no idea what to expect,” said student Crawford. “I’d never been to the World Dairy Expo. But after a short time, I became pretty solid on how to check over a health certificate and how important it is for a cow to be tattooed so that it clearly shows up. I would recommend the experience to any- one interested in large animals.”
Most of the students participating in the program had never been to World Dairy Expo and had no knowledge of the size and scope of the show. Their participation exposed them to the importance of interstate and international regulations to control important diseases like tuberculosis. With an informative orientation followed by hands-on application of regulatory requirements, the whole experience was “extremely informative,” said McGuirk. “Even informative to me, a veterinarian who is some- what familiar with the process.”
Beginning at 4 pm on Friday and continuing through 1 pm on Sunday, “students were put in a position of authority,” said McGuirk. “They were on the front line with exhibitors and cat- tle from all over North America. The World Dairy Expo gave them jackets so they had an official look and status. The students were professional and knowledgeable.”
“It felt really cool because we were official,” said Crawford. “It gives you a lot of experience inter- acting with people who might be your future clients. I think this was especially important for a first- year student. It also reinforced my desire to study food animal production medicine.”
McGuirk made sure she stopped by during every shift. “We never got backed up,” she said. “And later at the Friends of Expo dinner, Expo management paid tribute to all involved in the check-in process and acknowledged how professional, competent and enthusiastic the UW Veterinary Medicine students were.”