The graduate program in Milk Quality is focused on the application of epidemiologic and laboratory techniques to solving practical problems that influence pre-harvest milk quality and safety on dairy farms. An integrated approach to prevention and treatment of mastitis is emphasized with the ultimate goal of improving the wellbeing of dairy cows by reducing the occurrence of mastitis, making appropriate treatment decisions when mastitis does occur and ensuring that milk meets quality standards of the global dairy market. A dynamic group of graduate students work on projects that encompass all of these focus areas. Research on how to prevent mastitis is currently directed at understanding the impact of exposure to a diversity of microorganisms that are found in the cows housing environment and in understanding how to maximize the use of new milking technologies. The appropriate usage of antimicrobials for treatment of clinical mastitis is a research priority and emphasis is placed on differentiation between cases that require antimicrobial treatment versus cases that spontaneously cure as a result of the inflammatory process. Our goal is to reduce antimicrobial usage by ensuring that antimicrobials are used only on cases that will benefit and when used, are used for an appropriate duration. As part of this goal we are working to improve the understanding and differentiation between inflammation and active infection. We are currently working to improve the understanding of the clinical importance of the microbiome of inflamed mammary gland quarters. Most of the research in milk quality is applied and involves the cooperation of commercial dairy farms.
In addition to departmental requirements, graduate students in milk quality typically take course in epidemiology, immunology, microbiology and molecular techniques. Students who complete masters degrees usually work in the dairy industry with pharmaceutical, nutritional or milking equipment companies while students who complete the Ph.D. are qualified to apply for academic positions or research careers with major companies.