SDSU student poster takes first place at American Society of Animal Science competition

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. – South Dakota State University student, Erin Doherty, won the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) national undergraduate poster competition at the ASAS’s 2015 Joint Annual Meeting in Orlando on July 15.

Doherty is the first SDSU undergraduate to win the poster competition, which showcases student research from universities nationwide. Her poster, entitled, “Inosine 5′-monophosphate increases glutamic acid induced cholecystokinin release from bovine proximal small intestine,” is the result of a collaborative research project she has worked on for the past year under the guidance of Derek Brake, SDSU Assistant Professor of Ruminant Nutrition, and George Perry, SDSU Professor and SDSU Extension Beef Specialist.

“Winning the national ASAS poster competition is a very big deal,” said Perry. “Multiple people tied for second, but Erin was the clear winner in the contest. To be recognized at that level shows how much work she has put into it and her understanding of science and research. It is just a tremendous honor, not only in the fact that she was competing against other undergraduates from across the country, but the exposure from it is worldwide.”

Doherty’s poster highlighted their research investigating ways to increase the efficiency of how starch is digested in the small intestine of cattle. According to Brake, the research findings have the potential to positively impact the entire cattle industry.

“Cattle are poor at digesting starch in the small intestine. That is unfortunate because they can get a lot more energy from digesting starch in the small intestine than they do when they ferment it in their rumen,” said Brake. “Finding ways for cattle to digest starch better in the small intestine would allow for increases in efficiency of cattle gain and an increase in marbling of the beef.”

Doherty described the outcome of the interactions that were initiated during their research.

“The response we saw can actually increase the amount of starch digestion happening. So cattle are able to utilize all the starch because it is broken down into more readily available molecules that the cattle can use for energy, and therefore they can get more out of their feed,” said Doherty. “This creates a better feed-to-gain ratio and greater cost efficiency for farmers.”

Doherty, an SDSU senior from Luverne, Minn., is pursuing a biotechnology major and chemistry minor. While she grew up on a farm, her interest in animal science was sparked by being introduced to Brake while pursuing hands-on research experience, which he offered through this research project.

“The whole experience of doing this project and working with Dr. Brake has just been amazing,” Doherty said. “It’s been awesome working with the animal science department. They have so many opportunities and I want to thank everyone that has helped me get to this point.”

The work showcased in Doherty’s poster is a contribution of the South Dakota State University Agricultural Experiment Station. Doherty is a recipient of the SDSU College Of Agriculture & Biological Sciences Undergraduate Engagement Award, which provided partial funding for the research project.

“If it wasn’t for funding sources like that available for us to work with undergraduates like Erin, we wouldn’t be able to do these types of projects,” said Brake. “All of her work has culminated in what I feel is very impactful research that is now nationally recognized. Without all her efforts, none of that would have been possible and I believe it is very well deserved.”

Doherty received a $500 prize for her first place winnings at the ASAS national poster competition. In addition, an abstract of the research by Brake, Perry and Doherty will be published in the Journal of Animal Science at the end of this year.