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Meet the Team: Dr. Paul Virkler, Senior Extension Associate: Dr. Paul Virkler, Senior Extension Associate

Dr. Paul Virkler

by Michael Carroll

Few people consider the many interactions and equipment needed to produce the glass of milk they are about to enjoy.  For Dr. Paul Virkler ’98, that interaction between humans, cows, and equipment is his passion.  Virkler, a senior extension associate at Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS), a division of Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center, focuses on how local and national farms can improve these parlor dynamics to both be more efficient and prevent the spread of diseases such as mastitis.

“My special interests lie in the equipment and the interaction between cows and people,” said Virkler.  “One of the areas that QMPS is exploring is how to help farms quantify and manage that interaction.”

Virkler graduated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell in 1995 and then received his DVM from Cornell in 1998. After graduation, Virkler went into private practice for a number of years before joining DeLaval as a technical service veterinarian, focusing on how to improve the interaction in the milking parlor. In 2008, Virkler returned to Cornell to work in the Veterinary Support Services unit at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center and has been transitioning to QMPS over the last year.

“That’s why I really had an interest coming over to the QMPS side,” said Virkler. “QMPS is focused on that dairy cow and milking equipment interaction.”

Virkler travels to farms to obtain a complete picture of the milking equipment, the cows, and the people on any given day. He later follows up with more visits to create a baseline using different cows, milkers, and seasons, all of which can impact milk quality. He also examines the cows after the milking machine comes off to determine if it was a positive or negative experience for the cow, as stress on the teat can impact milk quality. Finally, he helps the famers to interpret this data.

“Many farms have a lot of automation,” said Virkler. “Every cow and every milking has flow parameters. That data can be used to see how effective the milkers were, recognize any challenges in the milking process, and then decide if any changes are necessary. One of our goals at QMPS is to try to help the farms get a report showing this is what you really need to manage and here are the parameters that you need to look at.”

At QMPS, Virkler is also involved in both the prevention and treatment of diseases in cows.

“One of the other initiatives that we’re working on is to help local farms make truly pathogen based treatment decisions,” said Virkler.

Seven days a week QMPS offers 24 hour resulting to help identify pathogens and determine treatment for the animal. An individual from QMPS will travel to the farm and pick up a sample and electronic form. Within 24 hours after this pick-up, the preliminary culture is done and the farm receives an electronic report explaining what has been found. The farm and their veterinarian can then decide the recommended treatment based on the pathogen identified.

“For me, the part that I enjoy most is helping farms move forward,” said Virkler. “The goal of this is aimed at the best possible milking parlor dynamics, higher milk quality, and the prevention of mastitis.”