Animal Science Conference in Costa Rica Exceeds Expectations

March 12th, 2009

AMES, Iowa — The first international animal industry conference of its kind in Latin America, organized by Iowa State University and the University of Costa Rica last month, attracted more than 100 participants.

Known as the Ensminger Schools, a series of international animal science conferences that began more than 50 years ago, the Costa Rica school was held Feb. 11 to 13.

"Opportunities and Challenges for Tropical Animal Agriculture" brought in students, faculty, producers and industry personnel from Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. Experts from around the world presented topics of interest for those involved in Latin American animal agriculture.

"These schools are designed to help provide cutting edge solutions for people in the region," said Max Rothschild, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture in animal science who leads the Ensminger Schools as the Ensminger International Chair. He said the next school is scheduled for 2010 in Spain.

The Costa Rica school's program included sessions on the sustainability of livestock production in tropical regions, the challenges of feeding animals in tropical climates and general issues related to improved animal production. Rothschild, who directs Iowa State's Center for Integrated Animal Genomics, presented at the school about modern genetic improvement in pigs and poultry.

"The attendance and quality of the participants was outstanding," Rothschild added. "The hospitality of our hosts and their involvement led to a very successful school."

Dermot Hayes, Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness and professor of economics, presented a session on predicting feed costs for Latin America. "Costa Rica does not have the funds to maintain a full-scale research program in livestock production," he said. "This school brought well-known researchers from the United States and the European Union and in so doing it exposed livestock researchers in Costa Rica to current research in this important area."

Donald Levis, animal science professor and extension swine specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was impressed by the questions asked by students. He presented a session on scientific and management approaches to improve pig reproduction in tropical climates.

Presenter Jimmy Smith, livestock team leader in Agriculture and Rural Development at the World Bank said the Ensminger School remains as innovative as it was when started decades ago. "It facilitates admirably a knowledge process that really works," he said. "As its teachers share new and cutting edge knowledge on livestock and related issues with the students, they learn firsthand the enormous challenges of developing livestock profitably and sustainably in the developing world. These challenges become the new research topics for which knowledge is generated and again exchanged in a simple but relevant process."

The Ensminger Schools were created by Marion Eugene Ensminger to promote animal agriculture education abroad. In 1964, he launched a series of technical agriculture seminars held in more than 70 countries.

Iowa State faculty got involved with the Ensminger schools in 1990. An endowment left to the ISU Foundation following the death of Ensminger and his wife, Audrey, helps finance the continuation of his international animal agriculture conferences.

Others on the program from Iowa State were Dorian Garrick, Jay Lush Endowed Chair in Animal Breeding and Genetics and professor of animal science, who discussed genomic advances in dairy and beef cattle improvement; Rodney Baker, senior clinician in the College of Veterinary Medicine, whose topic was novel opportunities for disease prevention; and Hongwei Xin, director of the Egg industry Center, who spoke about methods to reduce environmental stress in chicken production.

More information about the Ensminger Schools is available at:


Max Rothschild, Animal Science, (515) 294-6202,

Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Service, (515) 294-2314,