James K. Drackley
Toward a Biological Understanding of Dairy Cows During the Transition from Pregnancy to Lactation: An Integration of Nutrition, Stress Physiology, and Immunology
Professor Drackley joined the UIUC faculty in 1989. He is an internationally respected leader in understanding the adaptations in metabolism of fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids that occur during the transition period from pregnancy to lactation in dairy cows. His studies have demonstrated that nutrition and feeding management before calving can alter activities of key metabolic pathways after calving, implying alterations in expression of genes encoding regulatory enzymes. In the field, success in managing dairy cows through the transition is often unpredictable and frustrating; the vast majority of infectious and metabolic diseases occurs within about a six-week period centered on calving. His hypothesis is that interactions of nutrition with environmental stresses and infectious challenges impact metabolic adaptations, which in turn determine transition success. His activities during his appointment in the Center for Advanced Study will focus on development of an integrated research program to address interactions of modern nutritional biochemistry, immunology, and stress physiology in dairy cows. These areas have not been extensively investigated in domestic animals, and the research that has been conducted often has been isolated by discipline rather than integrated across these disciplines. Gaining new insight into these interactions holds the promise of significantly improving the well-being of dairy cows, as well as the profitability and sustainability of modern dairy production in Illinois and beyond. His research and teaching accomplishments have been widely recognized by his peers. In 1997, he received the Agway Young Scientist Award and in 1998, he received the Scholar Award from the American Dairy Science Association Foundation. He received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Research from the College of ACES in 1998 and the H. H. Mitchell Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Research in the Department of Animal Sciences in 2000. He is a prolific author; his 1998 book, The Development, Nutrition, and Management of the Young Calf, co-authored with Professor Emeritus Carl L. Davis, has quickly become the definitive reference book in this area.