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New labs for necropsy and analysis available for NICC agriculture students

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 04/11/2013 9:11 AM

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CALMAR, Iowa — Labs for necropsy and analysis were recently completed at Iowa's Dairy Center, south of the NICC campus at Calmar.

NICC hosted an open house and ribbon cutting March 21 for the new labs and the Large Animal Veterinary Technician Program, which started in August.

Construction of the necropsy and analysis labs was made possible by Accelerated Career Education Program state funding. Total project cost was $263,000.

NICC President Liang Chee Wee said NICC is about providing affordable, quality and accessible education for northeast Iowa.

"At the end of the day, it's not just about education, but the difference we make through education," Wee said. "We believe that education is a catalyst for sustainable change."

Wee said Iowa State University was a key partner in building the Dairy Center along with the Northeast Iowa Community-Based Dairy Foundation. The Large Animal Veterinary Technician program is a continuation of that collaboration. ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine will provide internships opportunities for NICC vet tech students.

The state-of-the-art necropsy lab features a garage door-style entrance on one wall that allows staff and faculty to transport dead livestock into the lab, a floor with a drain and a high definition camera mounted on the ceiling to record lab work and procedures.

"Students who may have missed a lab session will be able to review lab work that the camera records, which can also be displayed on a flat screen monitor in the analysis room next door," said Chris Harvey, a licensed veterinarian, NICC instructor and director of the new Large Animal Veterinary Technician program.

Via a large monitor in a waterproof case on the lab wall, Harvey can zoom the camera in on body parts that may be hard for an entire group of students to see close up.

The lab is waterproof and easy to wash down. Strict biosecurity protocols are in place. Only cattle from the farm are used in the program.

"The advantage of this location is that it's right where the cows are," Harvey said of the Dairy Center's working dairy farm. "Last week, we had a cow that died unexpectedly after calving. We brought her in here with a skid loader and went through all her systems like you would do at the diagnostic lab. We took the cow apart, found out what the problem was and went from there. We were able to videotape it and save it for later."

Vet tech students aren't the only ones who benefit, Harvey said. His other students — dairy science, beef science and animal science —do as well.

The new analysis lab gives students hands-on experience in analyzing and preparing animal blood, urine, fecal and tissue samples. An advanced digital microscope has visual output capabilities and displays images on a large monitor for faculty and students to review. The lab also functions as a dark room for developing x-ray film. Students are required to learn both film and digital x-ray techniques.

NICC is a certified Coggins lab for equine infectious anemia testing. ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine is the only other school with a certified lab, Harvey said.