Animal Health

  • Beede, David (dairy nutrition and management, nutrient management)
  • Bursian, Steve (toxicology, animal health, environment)
  • Chou, Karen (toxicology, animal health, reproduction)
  • Coussens, Paul (molecular pathogenesis, immunobiology, functional genomics)
  • Hill, Gretchen (swine nutrition and management, mineral nutrition, animal health)

David K. Beede, Professor and C. E. Meadows Endowed Chair
Principal Investigator, Meadows Laboratory

The C. E. Meadows Chair promotes scholarly research, extension and teaching in response to the needs of the Michigan dairy industry. Activities embrace and support the Land Grant mission of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and MSU. The Chair provides intellectual leadership to the MSU faculty as well as the dairy industry of the state in a broad area encompassed under dairy management. The Chair supports and integrates contributions of both the biological and economic disciplines for efficient and environmentally sustainable dairy production. Current research objectives are:

  1. to determine biological strategies and whole-farm systems approaches to increase the efficiency of utilization and reduce excretion of phosphorus (P) by dairy cattle;
  2. to determine if varying dietary P concentrations in prepartum diets affects peripartum health and productive performance, and P excretion by dairy cattle;
  3. to develop and test management and nutritional strategies for pregnant dairy cows to improve transition performance;
  4. to test the validity of the approach to establish the maintenance requirement for absorbed P for ruminating dairy animals (NRC, 2001);
  5. to determine if prepartum exercise of dry pregnant cows is efficacious to improve postpartum performance as indicated by metabolic adaptations, bone metabolism, periparturient health, and lactation and reproductive performance; and
  6. to develop and integrate whole-farm systems models to optimize productive, environmental and economic management of dairy businesses.

Steven J. Bursian, Professor
Principle Investigator, Animal Toxicology Laboratory

Our laboratory studies the effects of natural toxins such as mycotoxins and environmental contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins on animals. For the past 40 years, past and present members of our group have worked with mink and have contributed significantly to the extensive database regarding not only the biology of this species, but also the unique sensitivity of the mink to persistent environmental contaminants. Most recently, we have conducted a number of feeding trials with mink that assessed the reproductive and health effects of environmentally derived chemical contaminants from specific areas of concern such as the Saginaw River in Michigan and the Housatonic River in Massachusetts. We are also studying a unique lesion of the jaw that occurs in mink exposed to specific chlorinated contaminants that are common in the environment. Additionally, we have conducted a number of studies that have examined the effects of common environmental contaminants as well as emerging contaminants on avian embryo development. We are fortunate to have a number of fellow scientists not only at MSU but at other research facilities throughout the word, that collaborate with us on our studies. The data that this laboratory has generated over the years have been and will continue to be important information incorporated into ecological risk assessments.

Karen Chou, Associate Professor
Toxicology Group

My laboratory studies the exposure and health effects of environmental chemicals in mammalian species, with a focus on developmental and reproductive toxicity. The laboratory examines the mechanism of toxicity of pesticides and endocrine disruptors on testicular function, sperm and egg production, and fertility. The target mechanisms include the functions of endocrine systems, production of reactive oxygen species, and the relationship between clusters of alternations in gene expression and long-term reproductive performance. A second major focus of my laboratory is the development of improved semen preservation methods for livestock. The study models include laboratory animals, livestock, and cultured gametes.

Paul M. Coussens, Professor
Principal Investigator, Molecular Pathogenesis Laboratory
Depts. Animal Science and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

The Molecular Pathogenesis Laboratory (MPL) focuses on the nature, cause, and host response to infectious diseases in livestock species. As many of the pathogens of importance to livestock species are zoonotics, our work often has biomedical implications, as well as relevance to animal health. Pathogens currently under study with a network of national and international collaborators include Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Johne’s disease), M. bovis (bovine tuberculosis), bovine viral diarrhea virus, Brucella abortus, and several parasitic diseases in cattle. Work within the MPL is aided by an outstanding base of state-of-the-art equipment and tools for functional genomics. Although highly molecular in our approach to studying pathogenesis, all students in the MPL work with the appropriate host species, gaining experience in sampling and recognizing the effects of infectious disease. Students within the MPL also have ample opportunities for travel to multiple international laboratories of our collaborators during their course of study.

Gretchen Hill, Professor

Understanding the role of trace element nutrition in livestock from the basic nutrient utilization and conservation to the molecular basis is the encompassing goal of our laboratory. Our current research objectives are to:

  • Determine the molecular role of pharmacological zinc in enhancing growth of the nursery pig
  • Investigate cellular iron homeostasis in swine by determining the role of iron regulatory proteins
  • Reduce the amount of trace elements excreted by livestock while maintaining efficient production
  • Provide new insights on selenium needs of cows and their calves relative to thermo energy regulation and ultimately health
  • Understand trace element interactions and their affect on health
  • Determine status indicators and parameters that influence the trace element requirements of reproducing females in livestock herds