September 2019 AnSci Connection

AnSci Connection - a monthly newsletter from the department of animal science

Notes from the Department Head

Dr. Mike Schutz headshotThere has always been something special about the start of the new school year.  Even while the summer remains busy with new student registration, refocusing on summer research projects, travel to professional meetings, the run-up to the beginning of the school year brings with it a time of perhaps a little apprehension for both students and faculty.  Probably, this is especially true here at the University of Minnesota and the St. Paul Campus where we see an influx of just over 2 million visitors at our neighbor’s place in the twelve days right before classes begin. Then, the first day of classes arrives and there is a renewed energy as the annual educational cycle begins, and brings with it the opportunities of teaching and learning new lessons and meeting new people.  Our enrollment numbers continue to be quite strong right at 405 undergraduate and 50 graduate students. In this newsletter and over the course of the next several months, we will continue to share some of the successes and accomplishments of our faculty and students.  


Speaking of the Minnesota State Fair, I continue to be impressed with the number of ways that our faculty and students remain connected and engaged with youth and the public during its twelve official days and even a few days before.  Whether it is the Gopher Dairy Club’s Dairy Bar on the side of the Cattle Barn, collecting survey research data on consumer perceptions of animal welfare, assisting with livestock judging contests and workshops, or contributing to the recognition of outstanding youth; these efforts continue as an excellent way to contribute to the outreach mission of Minnesota’s Land Grant University.  Equally impressive is how many of our alumni continue their voluntary involvement with the State Fair. Thank you to all for your efforts!


Summer and Fall continue as a time of transition for the Department of Animal Science administrative office.  Office coordinator Kyrie Douglass, who began as office coordinator in January 2019, welcomed Frances’ arrival in April, and elected to begin a full time career as Franny’s Mom in August.  We are hoping to fill that position soon. In August, we welcomed the arrival of Maggie Stensaas as the Department’s Communications Specialist. Maggie, originally from Dakota County, comes to us from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, where she was the Strategic Communications Officer.  Finally, we bid a fond farewell to our Departmental Administrator, Brooke Nesbitt, who has accepted a position as the Chief of Staff to the Associate Dean for undergraduate education in the College of Liberal Arts. While it was only about a year ago when I announced Brooke’s arrival, Brook has attained a great deal in her brief time with us in Animal Science.  All the best to Kyrie and Brooke, and welcome Maggie!

Have a great fall and 2019-2020 school year!  Ski-U-Mah!

Dr. Mike M. Schutz
Department Head
Department of Animal Science 

Teaching, Research, and Extension Highlights

Pedro Urriola and Zhaohui “Edward” Yang presented at 2019 Distillers Grains Technology Council Symposium

During the summer, Dr. Pedro Urriola and Ph.D student Edward Zhaohui Yang attended the 23rd Distillers Grain Symposium as part of the annual meeting of the Distillers Grains Technology Council (DGTC) in Bloomington, MN. The objective of this meeting is to review the latest information on issues and solutions to marketing, feeding, and processing distillers’ grains.

Pedro was invited to give a talk on “Recent advances in understanding ethanol co-product nutrition in swine diets”. During his presentation, Pedro shared information on recent research studies done here in the department, and discussed challenges and opportunities the industry is facing today. Pedro also introduced the Integrated Animal System Biology team to attendees from the ethanol industry, livestock industry, and commodity groups.

Edward was selected to receive the 2019 Distillers Grains Technology Council Scholarship provided by Phibro Ethanol Performance Group. Edward gave a presentation and presented a poster on his research work titled “Growth performance of nursery pigs fed diets containing increasing levels of high-protein corn distillers dried grains”. 

This was a great opportunity for Pedro and Edward to introduce the research capabilities at the University of Minnesota as well learning about the newest events of the ethanol industry. It was clear that ethanol producers are starting to see ethanol plans as bio-refineries where corn is transformed into multiple products of various functions such as animal feed and chemicals.


Dr. Gerald Shurson Presents at the 2019 SafePork Conference

Dr. Gerald Shurson traveled to Berlin, Germany to be the keynote speaker at the 2019 SafePork Conference. Dr. Shurson was invited to present on the "The Multiple Dimensions of One Health." After his presentation, he was also on a panel of experts to dicuss ideas to move the One Health concepts into practice.

Dr. Gerald Shurson presenting at the 2019 SafePork Conference     Dr. Gerald Shurson presenting at the 2019 SafePork Conference on a panel

News and Announcements

Undergraduate Animal Welfare Judging Team Wins National Competition

The University of Minnesota's Animal Welfare Judging Team, based out of the Dept. of Animal Science, competes every year at the Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Competition. The AWJAC aims to provide a unique educational experience while strengthening student vocabulary and reasoning skills. The competition teaches students to assess the welfare of animals in a variety of settings using science-based methods and reasoning. Students are given the opportunity to weigh evidence and present sound evaluations. This contest ensures that tomorrow's leaders in the animal industries develop strong communication skills and acquire enhanced knowledge of animal welfare.

Our departmental Animal Welfare Judging Team competed at the national competition and our undergraduate team took 1st place overall and in the live assessment division.

The University of Minnesota team was founded in 2017 by Professor Beth Ventura. Each fall, up to 10 undergraduates and 5 graduate and veterinary students will train together and take coursework (ANSC 3015) to prepare for the annual competition. Students interested in joining the team can contact Professor Ventura at, once they have taken the prerequisite class (ANSC 2015: Animal Welfare Science and Ethics).

University of Minnesota is 2nd Overall in Dairy Cattle Judging Contest at Harrisburg, PA

 Nathan Donnay, alumnus chaperone; Sierra Swanson, Hutchinson, MN; Tanner Morrison, Peterson, MN;

Second-place team in the collegiate dairy cattle judging contest at the All-American Dairy Show, Harrisburg, PA, from the University of Minnesota (l. to r.): Nathan Donnay, alumnus chaperone; Sierra Swanson, Hutchinson, MN; Tanner Morrison, Peterson, MN; Rachel Coyne, Spring Valley, WI; and Kaleb Kruse, Dyersville, IA. Missing from the photo are coaches Dr. Les Hansen, Alicia Thurk Hiebert, Eric Houdek, and Gabriella Sorg.

Placing 2nd overall among 16 university teams, the University of Minnesota successfully competed in the collegiate dairy cattle judging contest held September 16 at the All American Dairy Show, Harrisburg, PA.  This is the 6rd year in a row the University of Minnesota’s team has placed either 1st or 2nd in the Harrisburg contest.  

Team members were Tanner Morrison, Peterson, MN (5th individual overall, 2nd oral reasons, 2nd Ayrshire, and 2nd Holstein); Rachel Coyne, Spring Valley, WI (12th overall, 9th oral reasons, 10th Jersey); Sierra Swenson, Hutchinson, MN (13th overall, 2nd Guernsey); and Kaleb Kruse, Dyersville, IA.  The team also placed 2nd in oral reasons, 2nd in Ayrshire, 2nd in Brown Swiss, 4th in Guernsey, and 5th in Holstein.  Coaches for the Minnesota team were Dr. Les Hansen, alumnus Alicia Thurk, and graduate students Eric Houdek and Gabriella Sorg.

Sixteen 4-year universities competed, and the team ranking was:  1. Penn State, 2. Minnesota, 3. UW-Platteville, 4. Cal Poly, 5. Tarleton State, 6. UW-Madison, 7. Oklahoma State, 8. Virginia Tech, 9. Michigan State, 10. Ohio State, 11. Purdue, 12. UW-River Falls, 13. South Dakota State, 14. Cornell, 15. Colorado State, 16. Georgia.

University of Minnesota Earns 2nd Spot in Accelerated Genetics Dairy Cattle Judging Contest

Second–place team from the University of Minnesota in the Accelerated Genetics Collegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest hosted by CentralStar Cooperative (l. to r.): Eva Doornink, Baldwin, WI; Katie Thompson, Plainview, MN; Emily Annexstad, St. Peter, MN;

Second–place team from the University of Minnesota in the Accelerated Genetics Collegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest hosted by CentralStar Cooperative (l. to r.): Eva Doornink, Baldwin, WI; Katie Thompson, Plainview, MN; Emily Annexstad, St. Peter, MN; Mikayla Erf, Oakdale, MN; and Dr. Les Hansen, coach. Missing from photo are coaches Alicia Thurk Hiebert, Eric Houdek, and Gabriella Sorg.

The University of Minnesota placed 2nd overall among 11 teams in the Accelerated Genetics Collegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest hosted by CentralStar Cooperative, Waupun, WI.  The contest was held during the Vernon County Fair, Viroqua, WI, on September 15. The Minnesota team also placed 2nd in oral reasons, 1st in Holstein, and 2nd in Milking Shorthorn.  

Team members were Emily Annexstad, St. Peter, MN; Eva Doornink, Baldwin, WI; Mikayla Erf, Oakdale, MN; and Katie Thompson, Plainview, MN.  Individually, Erf was 4th overall, 7th in oral reasons, 4th in Jersey, 7th in Holstein, and 9th in Milking Shorthorn.  Doornink was 6th overall, 4th in oral reasons, 3rd in Holstein, and 3rd in Milking Shorthorn.  Annexstad was 8th overall, 5th in oral reasons, and 1st in Holstein, and Thompson was 11th overall, 8th in Holstein, and 10th in Guernsey.  

Top five teams were: 1. Michigan State, 2. Minnesota, 3. Iowa State, 4. UW-Madison, and 5. UW-Platteville.  Dr. Les Hansen, alumnus Alicia Thurk Hiebert, and graduate students Eric Houdek and Gabriella Sorg coached the team for the University of Minnesota.


University of Minnesota Well Represented at the Accelerated Genetics Dairy Cattle Judging Contest on September 15

  Nick Seitzer, Isaac Nelson, Carter Herbst, Nicholas Achen, Leif Annexsta

University of Minnesota students at the awards banquet for the Accelerated Genetics Dairy Cattle Judging Contest hosted by CentralStar Cooperative at Viroqua, WI (back row, l to r): Nick Seitzer, Isaac Nelson, Carter Herbst, Nicholas Achen, Leif Annexstad, Matthias Annexstad, and coach Dr. Les Hansen, (front row, l to r): Ashley Hagenow, Kjersten Veiseth, Eva Doornink, Katie Thompson, Katherine Gathje, Emily Annexstad, Mikayla Erf, Isabelle Lindahl, and Ellen Harth.

Annually, students at the University of Minnesota with potential interest in participating in the intercollegiate dairy cattle judging program travel with the senior and junior students already participating in the program for a 5-day field trip on Wednesday to Sunday of the 2nd week of fall semester.  Students practice judging on 3 dairy farms each day from Wednesday to Saturday (12 dairy farms in total located in Minnesota and Wisconsin).  On the first three evenings after checking into hotels each student presents 3 oral presentations ("reasons") in which they justify their placings for 3 of of the classes of 4 animals they evaluated earlier in the day.  The presentations are about 2 minutes in length, and they must be presented without notes and by memory.

Again this fall, students mostly in their sophomore year accompanied the senior and junior students already in the dairy cattle judging program on the field trip to access their interest in participating in the program during their senior and junior years. Nine new judging students joined the field trip this year.  On Sunday, all dairy judging students (except for the 4 contestants who were en route to Harrisburg, PA, to compete in a contest the following day) either officially competed or judged from ringside in the Accelerated Genetics Dairy Cattle Judging Contest hosted by CentralStar Cooperative at the Vernon County Fair, Viroqua, WI.  In total, 15 students and Dr. Les Hansen were on-hand for the contest in Viroqua this year.

Graduate Student Spotlight

Maria Lou

Maria Lou holding pig

Maria Lou is a second-year master’s student majoring in Animal Science working under Dr. Yuzhi Li. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in Animal Science with a food animal specialization. Her love for pigs began after working at the UF Swine Unit and participating in an exchange program providing her the opportunity to intern on a swine farm in Auvers-le-Hamon, France. These experiences combined with a livestock behavior and welfare course, sparked Maria’s interest in learning to define animal welfare and how improve an animal’s quality of life. 

Her thesis project is on the piglet grimace scale, as she is particularly interested in pain assessment. The grimace scale is a scale that identifies changes in facial expression, more specifically facial action units when an animal is in pain. She hopes that the grimace scale will help towards the challenge of learning how to identify and assess pain in pigs using non-invasive methods. Additionally, her research includes a project developing a goat kid grimace scale. 

Maria is currently a member of the UMN Animal Welfare Judging Team and the Social Chair of the Animal Science Graduate Club. She enjoys organizing events and activities to bring graduate students together to volunteer and explore Minnesota. In her free time, Maria loves to play ultimate frisbee (feel free to ask her if you want to join) and goes hiking with her dog, Lucas. Fun fact, she also raises Monarch butterflies!


Grace Dewi with certificate of excellence awardCongratulations to Grace Dewi on winning a graduate student Certificate of Excellence in the Microbiology and Food Safety section of the Poultry Science Association Annual Meeting held in Montreal, Canada. She presented her poster titled "Reduction of Salmonella Heidelberg in ground turkey using plant-derived antimicrobials." 

Congratulations to Devan Catalano who successfully defended her dissertation titled "Advances in Equine Health and Management II: Grazing Winterhardy Perennial Ryegrass, Estimating Bodyweight, and Evaluating Novel Methodologies for Livestock Water Quality" on June 17, 2019. Dr. Catalano was advised by Dr. Krishona Martinson and joined Woody's Performance Horse Feeds in July 2019. 

Congratulations to Amanda Reiter who successfully defended her Masters thesis titled "The Effect of Round Bale Wrap-type and Outdoor Storage Length on Dry Matter, Forage Nutritive Value, Beef Cattle Preference, and Hay Waste" on August 2. Amanda was advised by Drs. Marcia Hathaway and Krishona Martinson, and is currently enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Connecticut.

Congratulations to Natalie Linders who presented her UMN undergraduate honors thesis titled "Online Survey of Horse Industry Members with Respect to Hay Net Use" on May 14, 2019. Natalie was advised by Dr. Krishona Martinson. 

Michaela Trudeau was featured in National Hog Farmer for her research, as well as her travel experience and leadership within different organizations within the pork industry.

Yuan-Tai Hung was featured in Farm Journal’s Pork for his commitment to research and leadership within the department, college, professional organizations, and the industry.


We express our sincerest gratitude to Brooke Nesbitt for all of her dedication to the department over the last year. We wish her the best in her new role!

Brooke Nesbitt farewell      Brooke Nesbitt farewell - Dr. Schutz speaking

Job Opportunity

We are hiring an Administrative Director for the Department of Animal Science. The Administrative Director (AD) provides leadership for the administrative functions of the Department of Animal Science, within the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. This position works directly with the head, faculty, graduate students, support staff, other administrators, and outside agencies and external stakeholders.  The AD directs the strategic operations of departmental human resources, facilities, budget, procurement, and office services, providing leadership for maintaining an administrative structure that supports faculty, students, and staff, with general authority to make commitments on business and administrative policies and procedures.  The AD works in partnership with the Finance Manager relative to departmental financial operations and research needs, and serves as a critical connection to the department head. 

For more information and to apply, go to:

Animal Science in the News

Calendar of Events

September 25 - Ag, Food, Business Career Fair, St. Paul, MN

September 27Nature's cycle: Equine mortality composting, Otsego, MN

October 4 - CFANS Homecoming Sampler and U of M Homecoming Parade, Minneapolis, MN