Dedication ceremony for new Virginia Tech dairy center to be held July 16

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 14, 2004 – The opening ceremony for the new Virginia Tech dairy center to be held on Friday, July 16, has been moved to the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena on Plantation Road in Blacksburg. The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m.

In addition, meetings for the Holstein and Jersey Associations, and the Southern Dairy Youth Retreat activities planned for Friday morning also will be held at the livestock arena.

The change in location was made after four cows in the dairy herd were found to be infected with Salmonella. "We believe there would be minimal risk to people attending the opening but in an abundance of caution, we decided to move the ceremony and the other activities," said R. Michael Akers, head of the Dairy Science Department.

According to William Swecker Jr., associate professor of large animal clinical sciences in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Salmonella bacteria are occasionally found in animals and their environments. It can cause disease in humans, especially those at increased risk, which includes the very young, the elderly and those whose immune systems are impaired.

Swecker said the four infected cows were examined and treated after their milk production decreased. They are continuing to recover from the infection. .Additional biosecurity measures have been instituted at the Dairy Center to decrease the risks of Salmonella transfer to personnel working there and other cattle.

Akers said the opening ceremony, starting at 1 p.m., will continue as planned at the alternate location. With the move to the livestock arena, tours of the new dairy facilities will primarily be accomplished by busing participants to the dairy center. He noted that two things are essential: all tour participants must wear disposable boots and wash their hands as they leave the area as part of the biosecurity measures.

Those participating in the event include State Sen. John Chichester, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, Commissioner of Agriculture J. Carlton Courter III, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Dean Sharron Quisenberry and representatives from the industry and Virginia Tech's Dairy Science Department.

Those attending the event are asked to take the Prices Fork exit off U.S. 460, turn toward Prices Fork and then turn left on Plantation Road.

Virginia ranks 18 among the states in the amount of milk produced. Currently there are around 110,000 cows on 900 dairy farms in Virginia. Cash receipts for milk totaled $267.3 million in 2002, and the Virginia dairy industry adds more than $1 billion annually in economic activity. According to the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Applied and Agricultural Economics Department at Virginia Tech, the average dairy cow in Virginia adds $9,000-$15,000 of economic stimulus to the local economy each year.