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Finding Answers in Food Animal Health and Food Safety: Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center Marks 20th Anniversary

October 8, 2003

Is our food safe from BSE? What would happen if foot-and-mouth disease entered California? How can we prepare for West Nile virus? Which vaccines are safest and most effective for food animals? At UC Davis, veterinary researchers are seeking answers to these and other questions about livestock health and food safety. In 1983, 250 miles from the School of Veterinary Medicine campus, the San Joaquin Valley joined the campus as a strategic location for veterinary discovery and education. October 2003 marks the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the school's Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, California.

School officials and community leaders envisioned the Tulare facility in the late 1970s as a teaching resource. Center faculty have since trained 550 senior veterinary students; 25 veterinarians have completed the residency in dairy production medicine. James S. Cullor, director, says, "Those veterinarians learned about basic animal reproduction, introductory nutrition, milk production, and food animal medicine. Our vision now encompasses applied research in dairy herd health, animal well-being, on-farm food safety, and environmental health." The center also supports graduate-level research and high school science internships.

Veterinary faculty cultivate ongoing interactions with regional commercial dairies, which benefit from veterinary services even as they provide real-world cases for students. Producers also help alert the veterinary profession to health trends and take part in applied studies concerning animal health, productivity, environmental health and animal well-being. From 1999 to 2002 alone, nearly 50 faculty and staff have produced more than 300 articles, book chapters and presentations. Research projects from the late 1980s to the present have touched on topics ranging from management of endemic diseases to vaccine testing, including the following examples:

Teaching of veterinary students and specialty residents at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center emphasizes herd health and food animal production medicine. Faculty members also provide consulting services to local dairy producers.


Milk testing and food safety research take place at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center. Local dairy producers participate in health studies relevant to their herds.

  • Accuracy of antibiotic residue tests
  • Development of tools to trace disease outbreaks, evaluate new treatments, and assess health risks
  • Investigation of on-farm food safety: control of potential human pathogens in food products
  • Mastitis research and J-5 vaccine development, which saves dairy farmers $11 million a year
  • Applying the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point management
  • The ecosystem's role in the spread of waterborne diseases such as cryptosporidiosis
  • Minimizing environmental pollution from dairy operations
  • Nutrient management
  • Vaccine safety studies
  • Effective diagnostics for samples of E. Coli O157:H7
  • Calf health and well-being
  • Alternative treatment of dairy wastewater to reduce pathogens and other environmental impacts
  • "Cold sterilization" of milk by laser light to minimize mycobacteria and other pathogens
  • Technologies for record-keeping, disease tracking and data analysis

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, Veterinary Medicine Extension, Dairy Food Safety Laboratory, Milking Technology Laboratory, and offices of state and federal departments of agriculture also reside at the center. Each unit conducts its own mission while exploiting opportunities for liaison and outreach with producers, faculty researchers, and public agencies. For example, in 2001 when foot-and-mouth disease struck the United Kingdom, these colleagues arranged for more than 300 producers and agricultural officials to Tulare to share strategies to prevent an epidemic in California. Two Tulare-based UC Davis veterinarians also traveled abroad to aid UK control efforts and returned with valuable first-hand experience in handling FMD.

The center's newest proposal, the California Dairy Technology Center, will be developed as a full-sized, self-sufficient, teaching and research dairy. The School of Veterinary Medicine, Tulare Joint Union School District and the College of the Sequoias will offer academic and vocational education covering dairy production, business management, and veterinary medicine at all grade levels. Faculty will conduct dairy research and technology transfer projects. Public and private funding will help complete the venture.

Bennie I. Osburn, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, states, "Veterinary students—even from other veterinary schools—and practitioners from around the world have found an exceptional opportunity in Tulare to learn how management decisions can affect the health of hundreds of animals at a time—and influence the producer's bottom line. These are the professionals who will help answer today's critical questions about livestock health and food safety."

More information:
Brenda Hastings, Assistant Director, Tulare (559) 688-1731, Ext 226;