Veterinarians participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture tuberculosis training at Fort Valley State

Published By: Russell Boone January 12, 2021

Dr. Sean Eastman, director of field services for Clemson University’s Livestock Poultry Health, uses a caliper on a cow as a part of the tuberculosis testing protocol. Overseeing the technique is Dr. Michael Whicker, certified trainer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services.  

A recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hands-on training session held at Fort Valley State University resulted in state and federal government veterinarians from southeastern states receiving training in detecting tuberculosis in sheep, goats and cattle.  Although tuberculosis is now a rare finding in livestock in the southeastern U.S., the USDA maintains a robust national surveillance program in partnership with the livestock sector and federally accredited veterinarians.

The training session at FVSU will help fill the shortage of veterinarians needed to diagnose tuberculosis in animals across the Southeast. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinarians traveled to the USDA’s National Animal Disease Center located in Ames, Iowa, for training. FVSU’s facilities and centralized location in the southeastern region of the U.S. provided an accommodating environment and a safe travel option for the professionals. FVSU provided meeting space, cattle and livestock handling facilities for the event that resulted in nine trained veterinarians from Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.

Dr. George McCommon, chair and professor of Veterinary Science and Public Health at FVSU, said the training was a success, and a prime example of collaboration between FVSU and the USDA. He said FVSU has hosted many USDA trainings in the past and is always under consideration due to its location and facilities. “They contacted us, and we were happy to oblige,” McCommon said.

Dr. Michael Whicker, veterinary medical officer (VMO) for the USDA’s Veterinary Services in Ocala, Florida, served as the lead trainer. He said it was very convenient for him to travel to FVSU to conduct the training. He added that Dr. McCommon and his staff greeted and hosted the group.  “They were awesome,” Whicker said.

Dr. Sean Eastman, director of field services for Clemson University’s Livestock Poultry Health, said it was also convenient for him to travel to FVSU rather than fly or drive to the Midwest or beyond for training. “It was a four-hour drive for me. Any time I can drive and it’s in my region, being in the southeast, it’s way better than getting on a plane and flying,” Eastman said.

“It only took us two and a half or three hours to get here,” said Hannah Ennis, a field VMO for the Alabama Department of Agriculture who visited the FVSU veterinary facility for the first time. “The facilities here are fantastic. Everyone we’ve dealt with has been super kind and helpful,” the veterinarian said. She said she would return to FVSU to attend future events or trainings if invited.

FVSU and USDA have a long history of collaboration, and a cooperative agreement is under development to partner in the coming year. For more information about the veterinary facilities at FVSU, contact McCommon at (478) 825-6424 (