Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Feb. 21, 1997

Apley adopts a 'whole herd' attitude

by Steve Jones
They're beefing up the beef production medicine program at the College of Veterinary Medicine and that's one of the things that attracted Mike Apley to Iowa State.

Apley is an assistant professor with appointments in the veterinary clinical sciences and the veterinary physiology and pharmacology departments. He came to Iowa last year from a mountain-view office at a Colorado veterinary practice that specializes in feedlot consultation and contract research.

Apley serves the beef industry by working closely with Iowa producers and veterinarians. His work on Iowa farms and feedlots keeps him in touch with the industry and points him toward the most appropriate research topics. It also benefits his students, who learn by working with clients on real problems.

"It's the best form of teaching," Apley explained.

Much of Apley's on-farm work involves helping practitioners address animal health issues facing beef producers. He provides practitioners with research-based information. He also is able to help veterinarians set up their own research trials to find solutions to producers' problems more quickly.

"It's important for the practitioner and the producer to function as a team in solving problems," Apley said.

Veterinary medicine has always been part of Apley's life. His father was a first-year veterinary student at Kansas State University when Apley was born. Apley earned his own D.V.M. degree from Kansas State in 1987 and returned to earn a Ph.D. in clinical pharmacology in 1992. Between degrees, he worked with his father in a private practice in Larned, a small town in central Kansas.

His father's practice serves both pets and livestock. However, Apley's career now centers on food animals, which makes him and Iowa State a good match. ISU often leads the nation's 27 veterinary medicine schools in the number of graduates who choose to work with livestock. (In fact, about 80 percent of the country's large-animal vets come from four universities: ISU, University of Wisconsin, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.)

Production animal medicine, Apley explained, is somewhat different than traditional veterinary medicine, which has concentrated on individual animal therapy and vaccination to maintain the health of a herd.

"Production medicine still recognizes the individual animal. But it also places emphasis on issues affecting the entire herd to arrive at the most cost-effective and humane methods for the best economic return," Apley said.

These issues include genetic and nutritional improvement, environmental protection, economic analysis and, of course, disease control.

"We must teach our students to become aware of the economic ramifications of everything we do for our beef clients," Apley said.

Plans call for the ISU beef production medicine program to grow to resemble a similar program at the college for the swine industry. Another beef production medicine faculty member will be hired, and additional livestock research and more outreach services for farmers and veterinarians will be funded. In the meantime, Apley has been busy teaching and visiting a number of Iowa farms.

"He has been out in the state a lot establishing relationships with feedlots," said Richard Ross, veterinary medicine dean. "This has enabled him to have his finger on the pulse of Iowa feedlots and allows him to take his students there to learn.

"He's an excellent communicator," Ross continued, "and he has an excellent grasp of the issues facing the industry."

Ross said Apley also is a popular teacher, and is well-known for his expertise in veterinary pharmacology.

"We immediately turn to him for guidance when the FDA makes policy changes concerning drugs and drug residues in livestock."

Apley's position is supported in part by funds appropriated by the Iowa Legislature for the Healthy Livestock for Iowa Initiative. The initiative is a college effort to help support the Iowa livestock industry through specialized education programs, high-priority livestock research and expanded outreach efforts to livestock producers and businesses.

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