Emeral Coast Wildlife Refuge Intern – Meagan Johnson

Meagan Johnson 1My name is Meagan Johnson, and I am a junior majoring in Animal and Dairy Sciences at Mississippi State.  I will be spending this summer working as an intern at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Throughout this internship, I will have the opportunity to gain experience with Florida’s native wildlife and other exotic animals. As an intern, I will work with the wildlife health staff to rescue and rehabilitate injured or abandoned wildlife. My duties will range from performing initial exams of injured wildlife to working on various community outreach programs. This wide variety of experiences will be extremely beneficial to me as I work towards my goal of becoming a veterinarian. I’m very excited to start this internship, and I can’t wait to see what the next 12 weeks have in store for me!


I spent my first day as an intern at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) Zoological Park.  I was taught how to work the primate and hoofstock shifts. Hoofstock represents various livestock, llamas, a wallaby, a muntjac deer, and a few other species. Both shifts consisted of preparing the morning and evening diets of the animals and cleaning the enclosures. The primates will also have some form of enrichment activity each day. I really enjoyed learning how these shifts work, and I can’t wait to start them on my own next week. For the remainder of the week, I worked at the Refuge. This is where rescued animals are brought to be rehabilitated and released. Every day I prepared morning and evening diets for all of the animals at the refuge; it took about 3Meagan Johnson 2 hours to prepare both sets of meals.  Cleaning cages and enclosures also takes up a large part of the day, along with other various house-keeping duties. I’ve already learned a lot in my first week. On my first day there, I was taught to bottle feed the numerous orphaned raccoons that we have in our nursery. Once I was taught, I was responsible for feeding them throughout the day. I also learned to syringe-feed our many fledglings. On Friday, several of our opossum weanlings had begun to develop Metabolic Bone Disease due to calcium deprivation, so the veterinarian taught us about the disease, and we were instructed how to treat it.  Next, I helped build and install new perches in the raven enclosure as part of their enrichment. Lastly, we had to treat a heron that is in critical condition after being entangled in a fishing line; the hook had torn off the skin and some of the tissue on both of his legs, and the line was entangled over his entire body. Hopefully, he will recover soon and we will be able to release him. I really loved learning about and working with all of the animals at the refuge, and I think this will be great experience.


Darling 888 Ranch Intern-Krista Pack

Krista Pack 1

Darling 888 Ranch

My name is Krista Pack and I am currently a senior at Mississippi State University. This summer I am interning in Princeton, Kentucky at the Darling 888 Ranch. The ranch has two main barns on the property. The training barn houses client’s horses and each day Andrew Fox, barn and training manager, works with their horses to prepare them for reining completions. The barn that I work at is the breeding barn which houses about 35 mares and foals, broodmares, and yearlings. At the ranch I work with Dina Allen who is the breeding manager and the ranch veterinarian, Dr. Travis Luna. Each day at the ranch is different but we always begin the day around 7 a.m. feeding all the horses. Once we get done feeding, I then bring up the mares that we need to check to see if they are pregnant. So far we have succeeded with breeding two out of the five mares. One of the horses even had twins. When a horse has twins we measure the diameter of each fertilized egg, we then have to “pinch” off the smallest egg so that there is a better chance for the other egg to survive. This week we also collected semen from two stallions. One of the stallions we had to collect semen using medication. The medicine all

Krista Pack 2

Looking at follicles with Dr. Luna

ows him to relax and then we collected in a sterile bag. The other stallion we collected using a teaser mare and an artificial vagina (AV), which is the preferred method. Once we have finished checking the mares we then begin working with some of the foals in halter breaking. The first couple of days we would just get into the stalls and get them used to us touching them, we then proceeded in catching the foals and placing halters on them and letting them get used to something being on their face. At the end up the week we were able to place the halters on them and walk them up and down the halls with their mothers. Throughout the summer we will continue to work with them and eventually be able to walk them around the barn without their mothers being beside them. We then feed the horses again and the day usually ends around 5 p.m. We work Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays we just come in to feed in the morning and the afternoon. This week I have learned a lot about the equine breeding industry and I am eager to continue in working and learning at the Darling 888 Ranch this summer.

Attala County Extension Intern-Zach Moody

Zach MoodyMy name is Zachary Moody and I am an Animal and Dairy Sciences major from McCool, Mississippi. I grew up on a small farm and have been involved in 4-H most of my life and I would like to pursue a career with the Mississippi State Extension Service after I graduate. This summer I will be interning at the Attala County Extension office under the County Director, Taylor Casey. I will be shadowing him and helping put on different programs and activities throughout the summer. I hope to learn about all of the different duties and activities this job involves so that after I graduate I am prepared and have experience when applying to work with the Extension Service.


During my first week interning at the Attala County Extension office I was shown around the office and met with many new people who help out around the city. I learned some of the basic duties that were done such as getting flyers ready to send to schools for summer programs and visiting people’s houses who were having troubles with their plants and needed advice on what they needed to do to fix it. We went to an orchard and looked at peach trees with blossom end rot and advised the owner how to control it. We also traveled to some of the local schools to hand out flyers and talk about 4-H to some of the classes. This week was a great learning experience for me and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store.


During my second week interning, I was able to learn more about different diseases of plants and more things that people who work for Extension are responsible for. I traveled to look at cotton plants that were being killed by thrips and others that were having to compete with soybeans that had come up in the field. I also learned about some of the diseases that ornamental plants like azaleas get and can be very problematic.  We had people come in to send off soil and water samples to be tested for different nutrient and pH levels. It was a very interesting and informative week.



Beef Extension Intern: Trusten Moore


My name is Trusten Moore and I am a senior, majoring in Animal and Dairy Sciences. You might have read some blogs of mine in the past! Throughout my time at Mississippi State, I have had the amazing opportunity to complete three internships, two of which I gained a class credit for. My first internship was with the USDA, doing research on corn, followed by a summer spent living in Ocala, Florida, working at a specialty equine practice and small animal emergency center. These internships have given me so many connections and have helped me explore many options as a future veterinarian, and for this, I am thankful!

As I was preparing for my last semester, I wanted to find another internship. This semester Dr. Brandi Karisch and Mr. Cobie Rutherford took me under their wing as the Beef Extension Intern. When I first interviewed for the position, I was a little afraid. I was never raised around cattle, so I as afraid I was not the right person for the job. Actually… I knew NOTHING about the industry! Ok… maybe I have been taught the basics in my ADS classes, but still, this was a new world to me! We discussed some upcoming projects with extension and the various roles I had in these projects. Dr. Karisch assured me that I will be fine and that this will be a great learning opportunity.

So, the semester begins…

The semester was off to a busy start! I was hired at a local animal hospital, which made my schedule even more hectic. When I was not in the classroom, I was working. When I was not working, I was studying. As you can imagine, finding a way to manage everything was most definitely a challenge.

My first project of the semester was A.I. (Artificial Insemination) School. This is a weekend class available through the Beef Extension Services. Our goal for this class is to educate producers on artificial insemination and how it can better their production. This class was composed of 30 producers from several different states. We had lectures, wet labs, and hands-on labs throughout the three-day course. I was in charge of helping facilitate the event. I helped get materials ready the week of the event and made sure they were put out and in the right spot during the event. The best part of this event was when I got to “glove-up” and help teach! I have always loved to teach and plan to go into academia as a veterinarian, so teaching producers how to A.I. was such a fun and rewarding experience. This was a moment when I was able to see that my education at Mississippi State has most definitely paid off! Every question that the producers asked me, I was able to answer.

My next big project that I had the opportunity to help with was the Beef Quality Assurance training. This is a program put into place to educate producers on the quality of the product they are producing and how they can improve the quality. Meetings are held throughout the state, and I was able to attend the meeting in Tate County. I helped get the supplies ready and helped with registration. The training consists of doctors from the vet school, beef extension specialists, and extension agents leading the lectures. Participants must sit through the lecture and pass an exam at the end. I passed! I am now Beef Quality Assurance certified! I am glad I had this opportunity because I now know the important roles that our producers play in maintaining good quality meat for consumers. I was also able to use this experience in a recent vet school interview! Isn’t that cool?

These were my two main projects that I was able to help with this year. These projects have helped me grow in the cattle industry and have shown me the many opportunities that extension has to offer. I want to thank Dr. Karisch and Mr. Rutherford for taking me on this semester and for being fantastic role models for the beef industry.

As always, being involved in internships during an undergraduate education is something that I highly recommend to current and prospective students. These internships have given me connections all around the country, which can come in handy later in life. As I sit and reflect on my education at Mississippi State, I am very thankful. I am thankful for the Animal and Dairy Sciences department and the direction this department is heading. I am thankful for all of my professors and the rest of our faculty in this department. My time in Starkville has been unforgettable! Now it is time to walk across that stage and begin a new chapter.

Signing out,

Trusten MooreIMG_7037

ADS 4221: Capstone: Nutrition for pasture based pigs

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course, who were assigned to work with a local livestock producer to solve a production challenge.

“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said ‘I need a caretaker’ so God made a farmer.” In 2014, our partner woke his wife in the middle of the night and told her of his dream to become a farmer. Since then, his dream has slowly become reality as his pasture pig operation has hit the ground running, literally.

In all start-up businesses there are going to be obstacles, especially when animal agriculture is involved. Our producer has requested the help from Mississippi State University to address some of their farms challenges in terms of nutrition. The farm’s objective is to raise hogs from birth and finish them out at a reasonable market weight. Based on the niche market in which this farm operates, the diet and management of the herd differs compared to common hog production guidelines. Our primary objective is to create multiple rations for this herd using alternative feedstuffs. In order to not only maintain the body condition of the animals based on their own requirements, but to reduce overall cost of feed and improve upon their management practices.

To do this, we have used resources provided through the university, faculty, and extension service, as well as literature from the Journal of Animal Science. We have developed a framework of both short and long-term modifications to implement as needed. Such as adding infrastructure, harvesting crops, processing feeds, and breeding techniques.

We are grateful for this opportunity to interact with the community and local producers in agriculture. Not only have we been able to help and educate others, but we, as students, have learned a lot along the way.

“That’ll do Pig.” –Babe (1995)

Palo Alto Piglets

ADS 4221: Capstone: Parasite management in dairy goats

Our producer has Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, and the operation has been in existence since 2001. There are 52 acres of land in all, but only 9 are fenced in for the goats. The farm’s biggest assets are the acreage of land and the superior genetics within the herd. The production’s primary revenue is showing and selling the offspring.  This has helped promote cheese and milk that is produced on the farm. Our producer is trying to provide feedstuffs to the goats that will give the milk a more desirable flavor for the consumers.  Therefore, many peculiar methods have been implemented to achieve this goal.  For example, our producer’s dairy bucks are prone to accumulating urinary calculi, which is not uncommon. In order to minimize this occurrence, ammonium chloride is supplemented to the bucks. Other supplements that our producer adds to their feed are 12% alfalfa oat pellets, baking soda, sunflower seeds, Purina show feed, beet pulp, and apple cider. With this being said, the main goal is to achieve overall heath for the herd.

The operation’s main challenge that it faces is internal parasite control. Due to goats being a grazing species they are very prone to numerous endoparasites including: nematodes, coccidia, various protozoa, liver flukes, and also various ectoparasites.  Parasite infections may cause goats to be out of production and subsequently detrimental to a farm’s income.  Therefore, our group’s task is to develop a worming protocol that will minimize parasites in the herd.  The producer informed us about the parasitic symptoms affecting the goats. She sstated that ill goats became anemic, coughed repeatedly, and also were prone to pneumonia.  Due to our group’s animal science background, we recommended a possible diagnosis of a barber pole worm infestation.  These parasites are nematodes responsible for anemia, bottle jaw, and death of infected ruminants mainly during summer months in warm, humid climates.  Their nutrient supply is a result of the adult worms attaching to abomasal mucosa and feeding on the animal’s blood.

Once our group investigated possible causes to increased number of occurrences in their farm, we realized that the primary cause was from poor rotational grazing methods.  The goat’s pastures were approximately 5 acres housing around 25 goats.  Therefore, if it is at all possible to expand pastures and implement a better rotational grazing method the parasite occurrence should diminish considerably.  Adequate treatment options include:  selective treatment, culling the infected animals to reduce eggs and the consequent infective larvae and pasture infection level, and also implementing a better pasture rotation protocol.


ADS 4221: Capstone: Beef Basics: Starting a Cow-Calf Operation

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course, who were assigned to work with a local livestock producer to solve a production challenge.

Our partner has challenged our group of MSU Animal & Dairy Science students to prepare a plan for him to begin a cow-calf beef operation. With 20 acres of land available, our producer wants to start with 7-10 Red Angus heifers.

This challenge is important to our producer because he wants to successfully enter into the beef industry. For many years, he wanted to start his own operation but never knew where to begin due to a lack of knowledge about the industry. He is now ready to step into the industry as a proud Red Angus beef producer. This challenge, if successfully completed by our group, should allow him to begin his operation with confidence and success.

Our group has many tasks to complete in order to obtain all the needed information. We have already visited our producer’s farm to assess his property and learn about his general goals for his operation.  Our next step will be to calculate the initial investment cost for our partner to begin his operation. These costs will include the purchase of the heifers, feed (grain and hay), any repairs needed on his fencing, a tractor and trailer, water troughs, vaccinations, and dewormer. We will need to determine what types of forages he has on his property so we can decide if these forages should be kept or replaced with a different forage variety of better quality. With his limited space, we have decided that rotational grazing will be most useful for our producer’s operation.  Our producer prefers to utilize natural breeding, rather than artificial insemination, and hopes to purchase a Red Angus bull.  We will need to calculate the costs and benefits of this type of breeding for his operation. Through this process, our group is learning that starting a cow-calf operation is neither easy nor cheap, and that it requires a substantial amount of money, time, and planning to create a successful operation.


USDA Intern – Trusten M.



Finals are quickly approaching and so is the due date for my project in the lab! I have been running samples of DNA over and over again…and once I thought I was done I had to re-run them! I have now mastered the process of making electrophoresis gels and setting up reaction mixes to run in the PCR machine. Just as any research, there has been some bumps along the way which has caused me to get behind.

Before I can start the physical mapping of the genes (the focus of the project), I must have enough data collected. I have had several samples not amplify (DNA did not show up while reading it on the computer), therefor, I had to re-run some samples with the same primers. After re-running samples I had a few amplify but still had several not amplify. I consulted Dr. Warburton during our meeting about this because I was thinking it was human error and my fault, but she said it has to do with the “PCR Fairy.” I was confused… I asked what the PCR fairy was and she said it’s a magical fairy in the lab that will sometimes give you great results while reading the gels and sometimes not give you any results. So, I learned I must be kind to this “fairy.” After discussing the issue with her, I learned that it is not my fault that I’m not getting good results…everything is just trial and error.

This week I ran over 800 more wells of DNA and set up 500 more wells to run next week. I faced the same problem this week with the 800 wells; over half of my samples did not amplify! As you can imagine I’m beginning to get annoyed. But I know that research takes time so I must be patient. So as for now you can find me in the lab doing the same thing over and over again each week until I get enough data. I am hoping after reading my next batch of DNA I will have enough data to move forward with my project. I worked a total of 16 hours in the lab this week.

Until then, I will be looking for that magical fairy dust and hoping the fairy will be on my side from now on!



Trusten_scoring gels

As you might have read in my previous journal, I have been having problems with my DNA amplifying on the electrophoresis gels. I ran my final batch of DNA and got the same results; no amplification. Since I am running out of time, I have decided to go ahead and score the DNA to move onto the mapping process. Since I have a small amount of DNA to score, mapping might be difficult.

How to score an electrophoresis gel:

To score the bands, I am labeling them A, B, or H. Trusten_scoring gels_1

A = Dominant

B = Recessive

H = Heterozygous

I must look at my primer screen to check for polymorphism and then compare those results to my gel in order to score the bands. I will look at the parents and the F1 in my gel to find which one shows to be dominant and recessive. Once I have found this information I can begin labeling the bands.

In this example, A is up and B is down as you can see in the pic. If you will notice, I have H labeled when you can see both A and B bands present in the same well.

After scoring the gel, I enter the letters into a HUGE spreadsheet in excel which is full of genetic information for the chromosomes of corn. I have now finished entering my data and will discuss with Dr. Warburton to see if I can move on or if we need to add data. With finals approaching, I surely hope we can move forward! I have worked 15 hours in the last two weeks on this project.

USDA Intern – Trusten M.


Trusten_Mastering the Master Mixer

Spring break just came to an end and I’m finally back in the U.S. and no longer stranded in Costa Rica! No joke…I was literally stranded in Costa Rica. See what happened was, two days before I was supposed to catch my flight back home, a volcano erupted, canceling over 150 flights! (I’m not making this stuff up.) It only delayed my arrival home one day, however, my four friends weren’t able to catch a flight back until Thursday- almost a week from our original departure date!

Now, that I’ve updated you on my adventurous Spring Break, back to the real world! Monday after Spring break was one that most students don’t want to relive. It was filled with homework, midterms, papers, etc. This has been a CRAZY week! Amongst my classwork, I made arrangements to finally begin my research in the maize lab. One question quickly arose… How am I going to find time to do this? I know if I want to get this project done before the semester is over then I need to be in the lab every spare minute I have. So, on Monday I began my research.

I’m going to try to make this make as much sense to non-science readers, but some of it may get confusing… so hold onto your hat, this might get bumpy!

This week I finally started with Genetic Mapping. Genetic mapping – also called linkage mapping – can offer firm evidence that a disease transmitted from parent to child is linked to one or more genes. It also provides clues about which chromosome contains the gene and precisely where it lies on that chromosome.

My first task was to amplify the parents (and we’re talking about corn parents) & the F1 (their first offspring) of 4 different mapping populations (essentially different breeds of corn). To do this, I had to order genetic markers from the factory. These markers come dehydrated, so the first step was to hydrate them with a TE buffer. Once my markers were mixed and ready to go, I had to begin making the master mix for my reactions. I quickly learned that there is a lot of math involved in a research lab! There is a specialized formula that I had to follow to create the master mix. The reaction mix that will be used in the Polymerase Chain Reaction machine contains the DNA and the master mix. I made the mix for the four populations and ran them on the PCR machine. I later ran the samples on an electrophoresis gel and got a printed sample of my DNA on the computer (view sample image of a gel reading). We found that one of the primers didn’t yield positive results and one was very weak, however, two primers yielded great results.Trusten_week 3_Figure 2

With the good results from two of my primers, I then could move on to my next step. I set up almost 800 wells of DNA on Friday and will run the samples Monday morning and then run the gels and amplify the DNA again to see if we get any new results. I worked a total of nine hours in the lab this week.

Trusten_week 3I will be honest, a lot of this is still not making a whole lot of sense to me, but I have the textbooks by my side and I’m reading as I go. By the end of this internship I will be so much more advanced in genetics than my peers in my major, but it’s not going to come easy. Anyway, I’ve got to get back to my samples!

In the lab,


FFA Leadership Intern – Liz W.


Liz_week 4_1Mrs. Gayle had to go to Jackson to get ready for Dixie Nationals, so my office work was cut short (so sad). At the beginning of the week, we worked on organizing plaques and trophies for the FFA contests. That was a pain in the butt because Mrs. Gayle’s office was jam-packed with cardboard boxes that we had to unwrap and sort out. We separated the North, South, and Central awards, then the Junior and Senior, then the different events for each award. Then we had to take out all the trophies, which were huge, and make sure everything was spelled correctly and none of them were broken (a couple of them were). These trophies and plaques won’t be used until later in the year, but it was a weight off our shoulders to get the boxes out of the office and organize a little.

Since Mrs. Gayle left Starkville early, I got a good bit of the week off, but things picked up pretty fast once I got to Jackson. I got to the FFA Center on Friday night. Mrs. Gayle made us red beans and rice for dinner (love her) and I got to meet the senior officers. Some members from other counties came to stay at the Center, and everyone got settled in for the night.

Liz_week 4_2

Saturday morning came pretty fast. The first weekend of Dixies was the livestock shows, and I helped with weigh-backs for the hog shows. The judge would sort out a couple hogs that he didn’t want to place, would send them back, and we’d help guide them to the barns. Then he would pick three or four that were his top picks. He’d send those back and we’d have to guide them to the scales where they’d get weighed. If the animal didn’t weigh the class requirements or differed from what was originally recorded, it was automatically disqualified. We only had one animal get disqualified from weigh-backs. I met a lot of the extension agents for various counties while helping.

Liz_week 4_3On Sunday, I helped with random drug testing and drug testing the winning steers. This was…interesting. Basically I had to follow any randomly selecting or winning animal around with a pee cup and a clipboard with all its information. There were a couple perks of this job: I got to get up close and personal (real personal) with some of the steers in the sale of champions. I got to watch the steer show all day. Most importantly (to me), I got to network. I met a ton of extension agents and some teachers from all around the state. Coincidentally, I was paired with the extension agent from the county that I’d like to end up in, and she told me a lot of insightful things. I loved watching the steer show because the kids are so proud of their animal and all their little outfits are so cute.

On Monday, I decided to skip class (sorry Mom) and stay in Jackson to help out some more. I was given the job of taking pictures of all the champions and sending them to the Commissioner of Agriculture for Mississippi. This was awesome because I got to sit all day and watch the shows, then I got to congratulate the winners and take their picture under the 50th anniversary sign. I had to email all those pictures to the Commissioner. All those kids were so excited, and it was so cute! Frustrating though, because sometimes it took 20 minutes to get the animal to stand still for a picture.

All in all, it was a super busy, exhausting weekend, but it was definitely worth it. I learned a lot about the different shows and how much work it is to have a show animal. I also learned about some of the controversy that takes place at any livestock show.   I met a lot of people that had advice for me about finishing school (some dude said I should move to Texas..okay). I wish I could have stayed all week!


I am so fortunate to have this internship. It has led me to many other opportunities to further my understanding of agricultural education. During my spring break, I spent several days in an Ag classroom observing a teacher.

I have starting planting roots in Mississippi, and I’ve discovered that I would really like to live on the Gulf Coast. I’ve made several connections with people in that area, and my ideal teaching job would be in Jackson County. I reached out to a teacher at East Central High School, and he said he would be very happy to have me in his Ag classroom for a couple days.

Liz_week 5_1 I had so much fun this week! I learned a lot about teaching in general, and of course about teaching Ag. I realized that, even though I’m about to graduate from college, I’m really not a very good adult. I discovered that it’s probably going to be a challenge for me to be these kids’ teacher, and not be their friend. Some of the seniors were only two years younger than me! This reassured me that I definitely want to go to grad school. I want to become as good of a teacher as I can be.

The teacher that I shadowed was also the high school baseball coach, so he had a pretty busy schedule. I played volleyball throughout high school, and had considered being a high school coach, but he kind of changed my mind. I know that every school/teacher/person is different, but he opened my eyes to how time consuming being a teacher is, and coaching on top of that. Definitely something to think about.

Liz_week 5_2East Central has a pretty nice greenhouse, but that’s all they have. They don’t have any hands-on curriculum involving animals, and that’s something that this teacher wants to improve. He told me that one day he wants to have show goats that his students can practice with and take to local and state shows.

The curriculum in his lessons wasn’t really what I was expecting. I guess my background in ADS has taken over my brain because I was expecting everything to be about animals, which it wasn’t. He talked about soils and plants the week that I was there. It reminded that I still have a lot to learn about agriculture.

While most of my friends went to the mountains or the beach for spring break, I went back to high school. As lame as that is, I had an awesome time and learned a whole lot. I brainstormed how I would teach my lessons and decorate my classroom and what I would grow in my greenhouse. As this semester goes on, I become more and more excited about becoming and agriculture teacher.