WT's VERO program receives $500,000 grant from FDA


By Chip Chandler

West Texas A&M University agricultural scientists are leading a national effort to study a potentially dangerous drug resistance in cattle that might impact human health.

A research team headed by Dr. Paul Morley, professor and director of research for Texas A&M University and West Texas A&M University’s VERO (Veterinary Education, Research, and Outreach) program, won a $500,000 grant from the Food and Drug Administration to research ways to prevent antimicrobial drug resistance in feedlot cattle.

“This is a great win for the VERO program,” Morley said. “We are conducting high-impact research that’s important to society and to ag production. Nowhere is this work going to be more impactful than right here locally.”

Morley will work with researchers from Iowa State University, Michigan State University and Colorado State University, along with industry leaders Cactus Feeders, Friona Industries, Five Rivers Cattle Feeding and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, to find ways to reduce the amount of tylosin phosphate given to cattle. Other WT faculty members on the research team are Dr. Ty Lawrence, Dr. John Richeson and Dr. Loni Lucherk.

Tylosin is administered to cattle in a majority of the country’s feedlots to prevent liver abscesses.

“These abscesses are a significant problem that leads to contamination at the time the cattle are harvested,” Morley said. “They can be so severe that the animals sicken and don’t grow as they should.”

Veterinarians and physicians for humans both are trying to reduce use of antibiotics wherever possible.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest healthcare problems facing us globally,” Morley said. “I know it sounds hollow to say that in the midst of a world pandemic, but this resistance leads to the deadly problem of people getting infections that cannot be treated with antibiotics.”

Taking part in such research is a critical component of WT’s generational plan WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

“This work has a huge impact on public health and welfare,” Morley continued. “I think it’s a poster child for how we should be working with our stakeholders to address critically important questions and address issues that have a meaningful impact.”

TCFA Vice President Ben Weinheimer said the organization looks forward to collaborating with the research team.

“For decades, our feedyard members have relied on sound science to evaluate and improve cattle health management practices to safeguard animal welfare while producing safe and wholesome beef,” Weinheimer said.

VERO officials also are in the process of staffing the 2+2 veterinarian training program with clinical veterinary professors, a research scientist, contract veterinarians, student workers and more. The 2+2 program will allow Texas A&M veterinary students to elect to spend their first two years on WT’s campus for increased exposure to large animal needs in rural communities.

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