Penn Vet's Services to
the Pennsylvania Agricultural Community
Over the course of the past 50 years, the productivity of agriculture—Pennsylvania’s leading industry—has increased remarkably, and all the while the cost of food in real dollars has continued to fall. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is the only one of its kind in Pennsylania, and as such has contributed to this positive economic situation in essential ways. Beyond the traditional services aimed at the prevention, control and eradication of disease in the Commonwealth’s livestock and poultry populations, veterinarians have developed sophisticated on-the-farm programs that focus on increasing profitability by eliminating subclinical disorders, sustaining health and promoting higher levels of performance while being ever mindful of animal welfare. Food animal veterinarians provide guidance on production efficiency, ration formulation, milk quality, waste management, reproductive efficiency and immunization programs. These measures are crucial in maintaining the viability of family farms and in the continued maintenance of a safe and affordable supply of milk, meat and poultry products for the Pennsylvania consumer and for the global marketplace.
In an ever-dwindling world, where travel anywhere is but a matter of hours and bioterrorism is an ostensible threat, the ability of veterinarians to recognize and control foreign and newly emerging diseases of livestock and poultry, including diseases transmissible from animals to man, has taken on a greater urgency. Foot and mouth disease, swine fever, fowl plague, and other exotic diseases, no longer present in the United States, still exact a heavy toll in many other countries. The British epidemic of mad cow disease in the past decade, with losses in excess of $6.5 billion, has spread to several European countries; and, in England, ninety people have died with a variant form of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease attributable to the ingestion of infected meat. In Taiwan, the occurrence of foot and mouth disease in 1997 necessitated the slaughter of two-thirds of the national swine herd and hundreds of thousands of cattle in Korea and Japan were destroyed to stem a similar outbreak.
Veterinarians play a central role in disease surveillance in the Commonwealth’s farm animal populations. The 1983–84 and 1997–98 outbreaks of avian influenza in Pennsylvania poultry flocks serve as powerful reminders that infectious diseases and food safety are ongoing challenges here at home. Potential losses in excess of $5 billion to the nation’s poultry industry were averted by veterinarians who were the first to diagnose the disease and who played a critical role in its control. Bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis, eliminated from Pennsylvania cattle as a serious threat to human health, require constant vigilance to prevent reintroduction of the causative agents.
Pennsylvania Farm Show
Each year, the School hosts visitors at its both at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, sharing the latest in veterinary care and research. Special topics from recent years include how U.S. poultry is protected from avian flu by extensive surveillance, preventing laminitis in horses, the possibilities of gene therapy, rigorous biosecurity protocols and hygienic agricultural rearing methods.
Dr. Michaela Kristula, associate professor of medicine and the Frances Cheney Glover Director of the Field Service Program, tends to a Holstein calf and farmer during a field service call.
The William B. Boucher Field Service
Field service at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals on the New Bolton Campus in Chester County, Pa. provides routine and emergency health care for local dairy, horse, llama/alpaca and small ruminant clients. The group's equine specialists offer routine preventive health care, reproductive services and evaluation and treatment of lameness and on-farm diagnostic services. The dairy and small ruminant specialists offer consultation in production medicine as well as routine on-farm services