With the end of the school year, high school students gathered to explore dairy veterinary careers through the “Exploring the Bovine from the Outside In” Exploration Experience at Meadow Vista Farms in Bainbridge, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The event is a new supplemental program to the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation’s Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow high school education program, which provides opportunities for students interested in dairy industry careers.

Participating students and teachers learned how common diseases of cattle manifest, how diseases are treated and how cattle differ from other mammalian species in terms of digestive anatomy. To demonstrate key concepts, and to display the strong will of a veterinarian, the all-day workshop included a basic physical exam of a cow, an overview of bovine anatomy and a diagnostic necropsy.

Unique instruction

Dr. Jared Risser led the Exploration Experience, and with his instruction, students built upon their fundamental knowledge of biology, anatomy and physiology they had learned through classroom instruction.

Risser facilitated the lessons to engage agriculture students in experiential learning. It is his hope that the experience will impact student career choices and help them to advocate for production agriculture. “If we provide opportunities like this to students at a younger age and present to them that challenge, I believe we can provide the dairy and veterinary industries with better prepared practitioners,” Risser said.


A recent graduate from Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Risser will join the team at Dairy Veterinary and Management Services in Goshen, Indiana.

veterinary instructor teaching how to use a scalpel

An experienced perspective

Dr. Charlie Gardner, retired dairy veterinarian and Center for Dairy Excellence contract employee, helped to oversee the Exploration Experience led by Risser.

“Many people are drawn to veterinary medicine because they like animals,” Gardner said. “It is even more important that they are able to work well with people. Every animal presented to a veterinarian is accompanied by a person who will be making the decisions. To be successful, veterinarians must be able to properly explain the animal’s condition.”

The basic physical exam and diagnostic necropsy gave the students and teachers realistic expectations of the daily life of a veterinarian. For Gardner, it is important for the students to see the physical requirements because a major role of a veterinarian is to distinguish how to help living animals or how to save an entire herd that may be at risk due to a disease in one animal.

Value-added education

The Exploration Experience expanded on Risser and Gardner’s passions for veterinary science by offering students the opportunity to use formal education skills in hands-on experimental learning while allowing them to engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning in an agricultural focused setting.

student learning about A.I.

“For me, the most interesting part of veterinary medicine is going through a list of diseases and sicknesses in my head that the animal could possibly have,” said Victoria Kramer, a junior at Tulpehocken High School, Berks County. “It is always an experience because the animal cannot tell you what is happening to them.”

Kramer is a member of the Tulpehocken FFA’s veterinary science team with hopes to become a small animal veterinarian.

The students who attended this event were selected based on their preexisting involvement in agriculture education classes, specifically veterinary science courses and FFA career development events.

“The compliments and positive feedback that we have received from the teachers and chaperones who attended the Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow Exploration Experience have been overwhelming,” said Mary Foote, dairy education programs manager at the Center for Dairy Excellence. “It was evident that students were using the skills they obtained in the classroom, and that knowledge allowed them to dive even deeper today and consider veterinary medicine as a possible future career more intently.”

To learn more about Dairy Leaders of Tomorrow and its Exploration Experience supplement, visit the program’s website or contact Mary Foote by calling (717) 346-0849 or via email.  end mark

Myrannda Kleckner is the 2017 dairy education and communications intern for the Center for Dairy Excellence.

PHOTO 1: Dr. Jared Risser talks to students from Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) Career and Technical Center about the bovine anatomy and organs.

PHOTO 2: Victoria Kramer, junior at Tulpehocken High School, watches Dr. Jared Risser instruct how to use a scalpel.

PHOTO 3: Dr. Charlie Gardner helps Haley Haver, a student from Elizabethtown High School, learn about the process of artificial insemination. Photos courtesy of Center for Dairy Excellence.