Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Nov. 21, 1997

Merger serves industry

by Steve Jones

Iowa's livestock industry is huge, about a $5.4 billion-a- year business. Add in the multiplier effect and the figure soars.

Nolan Hartwig knows the numbers. He has the challenge of running a high-quality academic department that also serves the industry.

Hartwig is the first head of Iowa State's new veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine department. The department supports the livestock industry with animal health programs and services. It also has heavy teaching responsibilities, especially for upperclass veterinary medicine students.

The department was created through a merger of three areas within the College of Veterinary Medicine -- the diagnostic laboratory, veterinary extension and the production animal medicine section of the clinical sciences department.

"The change will allow faculty and staff to better assist veterinarians and their clients to detect, control and prevent animal diseases," said Hartwig, who grew up on a Sac County farm.

Production animal medicine, Hartwig noted, concentrates on issues affecting the health of a herd to reach cost-effective and humane methods for the best economic return. In addition to disease control, issues include genetics, nutrition, environmental protection and economic analysis.

The new department has 30 faculty and 100 staff members who teach, provide diagnostic services and conduct applied research and outreach programs.

"These areas are on the front line of our efforts to serve the specialized needs of the livestock industry in Iowa and the United States," Veterinary Medicine Dean Richard Ross said.

Hartwig explained that the new department will offer generally the same services that have been provided in the past. He believes, however, the united department will serve producers and veterinarians better.

"We can really bring together the full package for production animal medicine," Hartwig explained. "Within the department, we identify the problem at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, then work with veterinary practitioners around the state to provide solutions or remedies from the medicine side."

Veterinary extension plays a major role communicating important information and advice to veterinarians. Sometimes, the information warns of potential health problems and provides treatment or prevention strategies. A rapid response that keeps a problem from getting out of hand can save producers money, Hartwig said.

Just as important, Hartwig explained, the department staff provides producers and veterinarians with management strategies and valuable information to ensure the health of the herd and the producers' profitability.

Historically, it was typical for veterinary practitioners to react to problems by treating sick animals. Production animal medicine emphasizes herd health and disease prevention while keeping the bottom line in mind.

The new emphasis also is part of the curriculum. Fourth-year students, who work with clients on actual cases and problems, devise programs to stop problems from happening.

"It's problem solving on the macro level," Hartwig said. "It's really a great learning experience. There are no simulations. The students are out on the farms with faculty working on real cases."

Hartwig, who specializes in beef, dairy and sheep medicine, has been on the faculty as head of extension veterinary medicine since 1983. He also is interim director of the Iowa Beef Center at ISU.

A 1964 graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Hartwig spent five years in private practice in Perry before joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. In 1973, Hartwig earned a master's degree in preventive medicine from Ohio State University, where he was a faculty member from 1974 to 1983.

In his new position, Hartwig still plans to get out to the feedlots and work with cattle producers. However, pointing at a stack of paperwork on his desk, he said time for that now is limited.

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