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Debbie Cherney

Debbie Cherney


329 Morrison Hall
(607) 255-2882

One goal is to provide solutions to applied problems in the area of forage utilization. Ideally these topics are current, fundable, and publishable. An example of this is in whole farm nutrient management. A primary emphasis for an extended period of time will be needed in this area, particularly dealing with perennial grasses. This is an area for which we have been able to secure funding, results are publishable and have been published, and, most importantly, results are being incorporated into producer recommendations. Another long-term goal has been to clarify and refine standard methods used to determine forage quality. The use of modeling to predict animal performance will continue to increase. Many of these models will rely heavily on chemical characterization, because of the speed, repeatability, and generally low cost of chemical characterization. With the advent of new methodologies and a better understanding of factors limiting animal performance, the chemical characterization of forages will continue to be a worthwhile field of endeavor. A considerable effort is geared toward teaching. The consuming public is interested in animal agriculture, and the issues can go beyond the science. Educating our students about issues that are affecting or will affect animal industry is becoming an increasingly important component of my program. In addition, we need young people to continue to choose agricultural careers, but also to make intelligent choices and policies about issues involving animals as adult consumers. Thus an important goal is educating youth about animal science and its opportunities.

Research Focus

Currently studies continue to focus on identifying appropriate forage management, particularly for perennial grasses, to enable high milk production while at the same time allowing for an environmentally and economically involves evaluating or improving laboratory or in vitro techniques to assess forage quality. Some of the methods we are researching involve the adaption of simple methods that can be used inexpensively to improve forage utilization in underdeveloped countries.

Outreach and Extension Focus

My focus is two pronged.
1. Less than 2% of the U.S. population is currently involved in agriculture and many young people have little or no experience with farm animals. We need young people to continue to chose agricultural careers, but also, as adult consumers, to make intelligent choices and policies about issues involving the use of animals for food and fiber.. We have developed a program that begins with a PowerPoint slide show describing what a ruminant animal is, using many images of different animals that the students may have seen on television or in zoos. We describe how a ruminant is able to use grass with the aid of slides and other props. The presentation is geared to the level and experience of the youth group. These groups range in age from 6 to 18 years and from no animal experience to farm youth. Because these audiences learn best from hands-on experiences, they are invited to come down and handle a rumen-fistulated cow, offer her feed, and explore the rumen. The youth are given lab coats and gloves and can place their arm inside the cow. We also have a microscope demonstration, so youth can see some of the rumen microbes, as well as a feed demonstration. In this way, they can see, feel and smell what we have talked about, reinforcing their learning experience. When appropriate, the program also includes discussion of possible careers in animal biology and production. In the last 3 years we have done 47 demonstrations for approximately 1100 young people and their chaperones. The program has Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Approval. Many of the groups bring new students each year. The cow is a critical component of the success of this program.
2. We are currently stressing the use of quality grass in animal production systems: primarily dairy, but also horses, sheep, and goats.

Teaching Focus

My aim is for students in my courses to be actively engaged and to develop as independent, responsible learners with the intellectual and social skills required to be productive members of our field and of our society. We accomplish this in a number of ways, from students choosing their own projects in Ethics and Animal Science to being involved in group projects in Animal Nutrition.

Our student body is increasingly diverse and a large percentage of them are from non-agricultural backgrounds. These students may benefit from different pedagogies due to different learning styles. Course curriculum needs to be adapted to the abilities and styles of learning that students come into class with. My philosophy is that teaching is not static. You must continually climb upward or be falling back down. My teaching goal is for students in my courses to be actively engaged and to develop as independent, responsible learners with the intellectual and social skills required to be productive members of society.

Awards and Honors

  • Kendall Carpenter Advising Award (2012) Cornell University
  • Merrill Scholar Outstanding (2012)
  • Merrill Scholar Outstanding Educator (2008) Cornell University
  • Merrill Scholar Outstanding Educator (2007) Cornell University
  • The SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching (2013) CU Contract Colleges Deans and Directors

Selected Publications

Journal Publications