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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Managing A College Farm Takes Animal And People Skills

June 24th, 2016
The team who keeps the farm running (L to R): Kasey Pedder, Peter McPartlin, Ashley Silkett-Butler, and Kim Veldman.

The team who keeps the farm running (L to R): Kasey Pedder, Peter McPartlin, Ashley Silkett-Butler, and Kim Veldman.


On an average day, the large animal hospital houses 25-30 animals. Those animals receive stellar medical treatment from doctors and veterinary technicians, plus an extra dose of attentive care from fourth-year veterinary students. But who provides for their basic needs?

That is where Peter McPartlin comes in. AS farm manager, he oversees a team of animal attendants and students workers who not only care for the hospital animals, but also for the teaching herd.  “We have 5 llamas and alpacas here, and roughly 15 horses, and two cows,” he says. “There are 30 llamas over at RAIL [the field on Campus Way]. We have a lot of pasture for them there. The RAIL folks check them every day. If they have any problems, we pick them up and bring them here.”

A typical day for McPartlin and his team begins at 6 a.m., in the hospital, with the morning feeding. Then they clean and disinfect stalls. A couple of hours later, they can turn their attention to the teaching herd and farm chores. Afterwards, they go back to the hospital for the afternoon feeding.

Between hospital patients and herd animals, the college goes through about 72 tons of hay per year, and about 20,000 pounds of feed or grain.

Horses are, by far, the highest maintenance animals in the teaching herd. “You have a big animal that walks on four little legs, and when they are outside in a herd, they act like a group of teenagers,” says McPartlin. “They are always fooling around.”  Sometimes, that creates more work for the farm manager.

“Last month, a mare named Pearl was in a separate paddock with her best friend,” says McPartlin. “I put them there to eat down some grass. She decided that she didn’t like being there, and jumped the fence to be with the other horses.” The fence is four feet high, and Pearl is not a youngster, so she hit the fence and got a big knot on her leg. “I spent one morning fixing the fence she ruined,” says McPartlin.

The horses also get extra care for their feet, from a farrier who comes once a month, and for their teeth, from Dr. Mecham, the herd veterinarian.

In addition to animal care, McPartlin is responsible for keeping the basic operation running. He does everything from repair hoses in the hospital to changing the oil in the tractor. His team even keeps the hospital parking lot tidy.

McPartlin supervises three, full-time animal attendants and about eight, part-time student workers. “The animal attendants are my right hand; I could not do this without them,” says McPartlin. “The student workers are also a valuable part of what we do.”

Some of the student workers come from farms, and have been around large animals before. Others are animal lovers, but need more training to work with the herd. “They maybe had dogs that they loved, and they are thinking about being a veterinarian,” says McPartlin, “but I need to make sure they are comfortable working with large animals before I turn them loose in a stall. They have to be able to read an animal, and understand how it will react under certain conditions, so no one gets hurt.”

One of the things McPartlin likes best about his job is interacting with the fourth-year students on rotation in the hospital. “I walk around the hospital quite a bit, so they stop me and ask for help with the practical aspects of what they are doing. I like to show them what works best.”

His advice often deals with the nuts-and-bolts of hospital issues, sometimes literally. “We have a commercial washer that gets messed up when people leave stuff in their coveralls. I’ve always got screws in mine.  I try to remind everyone to turn their pockets inside-out before they stuff them in the laundry,” he says.

Another challenge for the washing machines is the amount of stall debris clinging to everything. “The leg wraps from the horses get full of sawdust, which clogs things up,” says McPartlin. “I saw a student in the hall yesterday shaking one off, so I stopped and said ‘Great job. That is exactly what we should be doing’.”

That kind of positive interaction with people is something that McPartlin consciously strives to achieve. He sees it as part of the OSU mission to create an environment for people to grow.

“As our society has gotten busier, we don’t always watch our words, or are not as kind as we should be,” he says. “I think when you are working with young people, it is especially important. My team and I try to ‘lay out the red carpet’ for their learning.” McPartlin also extends that courtesy to his staff and coworkers. ”Each of us has to take the responsibility to create a positive environment.”


Heart Disease Research Earns Prestigious NSF Award

June 16th, 2016

RamseyDr. Steven Ramsey, assistant professor in the CVM Department of Biomedical Sciences, earned the prestigious Faculty Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation.

“This award recognizes the quality of Dr. Ramsey’s research, which has significant potential for contributing to our understanding of disease in both humans and other animal species – a good example of One Health,” says Dr. Susan Tornquist, Lois Bates Acheson Dean.

The award is a five year grant that supports both research and educational activities, including outreach to K-12 schools. Ramsey’s research uses computer science to discover genetic factors related to heart disease.

“It’s career making,” says Ramsey. “It’s very significant because the five-year grant enables me to have longevity for my research program. To make research breakthroughs, you need the kind of sustained effort that is enabled by the this award.”

Ramsey’s research looks at massive data sets to examine variations in the human genome. But he is not looking at the genes — instead, he is analyzing the spaces in between the genes, the relatively unstudied portion of the genome that affects 40% of inherited risk for disease. “It’s a needle in a haystack problem,” Ramsey says.

Ramsey’s ultimate goal is to improve health. “If we can better understand the molecular basis of disease, it will help us come up with new targets for drugs to prevent or treat disease,” Ramsey said.

Part of the NSF award requires outreach to kinds. Ramsey plans to bring his excitement about bioinfomatics to high school students through afterschool and summer workshops that will introduce them to modern genetics, including analyzing real data with a genome browser. Initial programs will be held at Oregon State University through pre-college programs. Additionally, Ramsey will be working to develop materials that can be used by any high school across the country.

Dr. Blythe Retires After 37 Years

June 16th, 2016
Dr. Linda Blythe judging a 1990s Build-A-Brain contest.

Dr. Linda Blythe judging a 1990s Build-A-Brain contest.

Dr. Linda Blythe, founding faculty member of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, retired this year after 37 years of service to the college.

Dr. Blythe has been nationally recognized for her achievements in veterinary neurology. Her early research in equine neurological diseases led to the discovery of equine temporohyoid osteoarthropathy, a disorder that can predispose horses to fracture along the base of the skull. She also explored the role of vitamin E in equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy, a now preventable disease of young horses.

Throughout her long career, Dr. Blythe held many administrative positions in the college, including Acting Dean and Associate Dean, but always, for her, the students came first. Not surprisingly, Dr. Blythe was a frequent recipient of the yearly CVM Teaching Award, and her infamous Build-A-Brain class has been an enlightening introduction to veterinary medicine for more than 1,000 students.

Dr. Blythe loves to travel, but hopes to still be involved with helping and encouraging OSU veterinary students in some capacity in the future.

Class of 2016 Graduation

June 16th, 2016

2016Grads_OSUsignCongratulations to the Class of 2016! You can enjoy photos from their day of triumph by visiting the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Facebook page!


2016 Scholarship Awards Ceremony

June 14th, 2016

MacVicar Scholar Broughton To Speak On Feline Immunodeficiency

May 2nd, 2016

Broughton1Heather Broughton will give a talk on conservation issues affecting African lions living in Kruger National Park, South Africa, and the role of co-infection in the prevalence of pathogens like feline immunodeficiency.

Broughton is a 2016 MacVicar Scholar in the CVM Graduate Program.

The presentation will be Thursday, May 26th, 1:00 p.m., in Magruder 298.