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Published on Dec. 2, 2020

Get to know our team: Maria Dashek

Dr. Dashek is a recent addition to our US technical team, bringing a valuable wealth of knowledge and perspective. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science from the Iowa State University with a Poultry Science Emphasis from the Midwest Poultry Consortium-Center of Excellence program. She received MS, PhD and DVM degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison specializing in poultry health and immunity.

Can you tell me a little about how you got involved in the industry?

I grew up in Arcadia, Wisconsin where I had my first internship at Gold ‘N Plump Poultry through the Midwest Poultry Consortium – COE program. After working with the GNP poultry veterinarian, Dr. Deidre Johnson, I decided that I wanted to become a poultry vet. Ever since this initial internship, I sought out various experiences in the poultry industry through the ISU Block & Bridle poultry interest group, IPPE, Poultry Science Association, and internships/externships at Agromed, HyLine, Cobb-Vantress, UGA-PDRC, Ceva and Mountaire. During veterinary school, I reached out to Dr. Mark Cook to work with him on a poultry research project. I ended up enjoying my work in the lab so much that it led to the completion of my MS and PhD degrees on a novel coccidiosis immunotherapeutic. I am grateful to be part of the poultry industry because it is made up of a community of phenomenal people who care about animal agriculture.

What do you find is the most rewarding about working in your field?

The most rewarding thing about working in the poultry industry is the impact you have on providing a wholesome, nutritious poultry product to the consumer. Poultry meat and eggs are key affordable protein sources to many people in the world. It is important to me as a veterinarian and scientist to produce these products in an efficient and humane manner. It is exciting to be able to implement new technology to improve bird production, health and welfare.

As a veterinary scientist, you have a unique view on bird health. Why did you decide to pursue both a DVM and PhD, and what type of advantages does this perspective give you?

I decided to pursue both a DVM and PhD because our current world is run by big data. The poultry industry is starting to collect more and more data, and there is a need to analyze it to provide valuable feedback. My veterinary degree has given me the knowledge to evaluate individual flock health, while my PhD gives me the ability to analyze the quantitative data collected by these individual evaluations and make informed decisions and conclusions regarding flock health.

What do you think are the top three things an egg producer needs to do to maintain a healthy flock?

  1. Be attentive. Every flock is different due to differing biology and numerous factors that go into bird management. In bird management there is not one protocol in black and white that will work for every flock. Be attentive to bird behavior and adjust your management according to their needs. Use data collected, e.g. feed and water consumption, as a tool to quantitatively assess flock changes without bias.
  2. Keep records and compare them historically. Are you seeing the same problem flock to flock? If so, are there changes that can be made so the problem doesn’t reoccur? Changes in personnel can result in missed opportunities for improvement
  3. Make biosecurity ingrained in your company culture. Robust biosecurity practices should be second nature due to the importance of keeping your birds and livelihood safe. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Outside of work, what could we find you doing, listening to, reading, watching?

My friends would describe me as surprisingly domestic for how career focused I am. I grew up in a rural area where knowing how to make things from scratch is a valued skill. My hobbies are seasonal, in the spring I start home improvement projects, in the summer I focus on my garden and canning, in the fall I like to bake, and in the winter, I enjoy knitting. My husband and I also enjoy taking our dog for hikes and traveling whenever we get the chance. For reading, I have been working my way through the Hello Sunshine book club picks. When I am on the road for work, I typically listen to the news or a non-fiction audiobook. Recently, I have started purchasing any CD audiobook I find in thrift stores as a way to listen to something I wouldn’t normally listen to.

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