AETA 2016 Scholarship Winner Report: Robert Stenger

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Published on: December 9, 2016

I grew up on a full-time livestock farm. The farm is predominantly cattle, and in the last 10 years or so my family has increased their sheep numbers. It is mostly a commercial operation, though my father has made strides to get some of the best genetics in the Katahdin sheep breed. All our breeding has always been done natural service with a selection emphasis on hardiness and minimal inputs—a so to speak, let the grass do the work type of system. I know a bit about raising livestock but very little about more modern reproductive techniques. Growing up with this livestock background, I see the great potential for embryo transfer (ET) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to rapidly increase the selection process. No matter the trait for which one is selecting, being able to increase the number of offspring from your best animals will help you reach your goals all the more rapidly.

Another area in which I see great potential for ET is the international market. Producers in the United States and other developed countries have spent many years selectively breeding livestock to maximize production traits. The world human population is booming and there is an ever increasing demand for animal protein. If we could share our progress in livestock breeding with developing nations, we could help them leapfrog into a much higher production capacity. I understand that climates, diseases, and conditions vary, and the perfect cow for the US producer may not be the perfect cow for the farmer in eastern Africa, but we should be helping more in these developed countries to improve their livestock genetics.

I wish to learn more about ET and IVF so that I can provide such services to clients back home in West Virginia, but also I hope to be able to work with developing countries to improve their livestock systems. Embryo transfer may not be the first step or the most important, but it will be a key tool in the modernization of livestock farming across the globe.

Attending the AETA conference gave me unparalleled insight into what is currently being done with ET and what is coming up on the horizon. I went with an open mind and open eyes. Having very little experience in the field, everything that I learned I was learning for the first time. It was great to listen to some experts on small ruminant ET speak, as this is an area of particular interest for me. Hearing about the benefits of coupling genetic analysis with embryo transfer was also very intriguing. Using both disciplines together further increases the rate of trait selection.

Attending AETA allowed me exposure to a lot of expertise and knowledge that I likely would not have gotten at my university. Going forward, I will be able to refer to the basic knowledge I obtained at the conference and look to those that I met for guidance and mentorship.

The student scholarship program allowed me the opportunity to gain entry into the world of ET. Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to attend the conference. I have the utmost gratitude for those that helped make it possible. From those who helped plan the conference and the student scholarship selection committee, to the members, sponsors, and donors who provided the funding which made the scholarships possible, I am indebted to them all.


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