Growing our Generation: Animal research — Why is it so important?

Sara Tallmadge of Ashland County is editor of the Sept. 25, 2017 Growing our Generation enewsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals. 

Hi there! My name is Sara Tallmadge and I am a registered veterinary technician working in livestock research medicine at Ohio State University’s OARDC campus in Wooster. I graduated from Stautzenberger College in 2015 with a degree in veterinary technology and accepted my position as laboratory animal technologist at the Food Animal Health Research Program (FAHRP) earlier that year. I grew up in the military and also Ashland County, where my family had a pheasant hunting preserve. After my dad retired from the United States Marine Corps, we officially settled down back at the farm and started to raise market hogs and cattle. I was very active in the Hillsdale FFA chapter and Ashland County 4-H as a 4-H camp counselor, Junior Fair Board member and showing livestock. Over the past five years I have continued as a volunteer for 4-H camp as adult staff and for fair livestock and still project interview judging.

I participated in the wildfire relief efforts, delivering supplies and help to farmers out west.
I participated in the wildfire relief efforts, delivering supplies and help to farmers out west.

I have been a Farm Bureau member for approximately three years and in that short time I have been blessed to witness and be a part of such great love and compassion for not only agriculture, but for our fellow members of the agricultural community across America.



Animal Research — Why is it so important?

Throughout time nearly all medicines, vaccines, medical devices, behavior analysis and surgical procedures have depended on animal research before use in humans. But still, why exactly is it that we use animals for this purpose? Animals can be used as models for both human and animal diseases.  Animals in research are chosen because they are biologically very similavacciner to humans and they also have similar health issues throughout their lives. Rabbits, for example, have a life span that averages between 7 – 12 years. Their shorter lifespan gives researchers the opportunity to observe more quickly how diseases effect growth and reproduction. This in turn leads to a quicker turn out of data that can lead to treatments and manufacturing of vaccines for those who need it. It is also important to keep in mind that even though research may be focusing on finding a treatment specifically for animals or humans, that many times results are found to aid other species. At the Food Animal Health Research Program, our goal is to prevent and understand diseases in food producing animals and food systems, which in turn leads to advances for the human consumer and for livestock.

Governing and accreditation in biomedical research

When working with animals in a research setting, it is important to give them the utmost care and protection during the duration of a study. It is important to have properly trained staff, veterinary care, up-to-date record keeping, standard operating procedures, emergency plans, facility up keep and many other important factors to ensure proper animal welfare. But it does come down to more than just staff that care about the well-being of animals. With that being said, there are various governing agencies that have mandatory requirements and conduct regular inspections, some being unannounced, to ensure the proper care is being given to all research animals.

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is one such committee that we at FAHRP are always prepared for. This committee is, by law, required within each institution to review all portions of research and instructional activities. The IACUC reviews and approves all research protocols before studies can begin and conducts semiannual inspections of all animal research facilities to ensure standards are met. If the institutional IACUC feels as if research is not being conducted properly, they have the authority to suspend and deny protocols.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a well-known agency throughout many facets of the agriculture industry that also regulates research facilities through enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. USDA inspections are completed at least once a year, unannounced, by veterinary medical officers or animal care inspectors. VMOs are veterinary medical program graduates and most have private veterinary practice experience before joining USDA, while ACIs have extensive experience with animal care and have a biological sciences education.

At FAHRP, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International is another important factor of our research program. This accreditation agency has no regulatory power, but instead is a nonprofit organization that awards accreditation to institutions that meet high standards of animal care and use. This association bases standards from the Ag Guide and “the Guide” to award such accreditation. Though this is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended to show an institution’s commitment to animal care. To maintain accreditation AAALAC conducts site visits every three years.

Zoonotic disease prevention

Wash your hands. We all heard that a lot growing up, right? Thanks, Mom. Ringworm, raise your hand if you’ve unfortunately received that lovely fungi after working with animals. Restaurant menu warnings, “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.” Well, I always ask, “How rare CAN you cook it?” As you can tell, I live a little on the edge.

Due to college, I will always remember Toxoplasmosis for some reason. I’m not quite sure why, maybe it’s the catchy name? But on a serious note, did you know that it is best for pregnant women to avoid cleaning a litter box to avoid possibly passing the disease onto the baby? It was just so interesting to me and maybe that right there was the start of my future path.

hand-washingZoonotic diseases are infections that are shared from animals to humans, and every year tens of thousands of Americans get sick from these infections (CDC). So how do we avoid them? Remember what your mom used to tell you before eating dinner? Yes, wash your hands, especially after working with animals. Also, avoid direct contact with infected or potentially infected areas on livestock and pets. Be sure to wear gloves when applying topical medications, to avoid things like our favorite fun-guy, ringworm. Cooking meat thoroughly and washing raw vegetables before consuming can help you and your family avoid getting sick from E.coli, Salmonella and my apparently favorite zoonotic disease, Toxoplasmosis.

Another form of prevention can be found from using insect repellents for both you and your animals to avoid bites from disease vectors.Vectors are typically blood sucking insects, such as mosquitos and ticks, that transmit disease via bite from human-to-human or from animal-to-human. These vectors carry the disease after feeding off of an infected host. More than 17 percent of all infectious disease cases are caused by vector-borne contact.

At work, our biggest forms of zoonosis prevention is through wearing proper personal protective equipment when working with infected animals, and biosecurity measures at all facilities. A simple wash of boots with a disinfectant cleaner or a walk through foot bath can help limit transfer of diseases to clean areas and wearing a properly fitted respiratory mask can help you avoid inhalation of possible pathogens.

Future leaders

Six million. That’s how many 4-Hers are in America and 444,900 of those members are in Ohio. That’s quite a few future business owners, farmers, producers, advocates, teachers and world changers out there just waiting to learn more about themselves and the world. But they can’t get there all on their own, they need us.

4-hersThose of us who have been in their shoes work in the industries that they hope to find their future paths in. When I was 8-years-old, I was shy, I moved to Ohio from a naval base near Washington, D.C. and I was way out of my element. Little did I know that over the years, 4-H would help me transition into a confident and responsible leader.

That is why I find it important to volunteer within the 4-H program, to give young members the chance to become better versions of themselves. It is amazing to see 4-H campers in the summer face their fears and practice teamwork while zipping at the adventure tower, older members working with younger 4-Hers at the county fair and all members taking pride and responsibility through the various projects they’ve worked on throughout the year. Many of these members become successful FFA members and community volunteers as well before they move onto college and then to their adult futures.

Remember, “They’re not just kids, they’re future leaders,” and there are many organizations out there, not just 4-H, that are in need of mentors and volunteers just like you.

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This e-newsletter is brought to you by Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals. Learn more about Farm Bureau membership, including a discounted category for those 18-24 years old.

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