Meet Dr. Barbara Jones: Moving the Southwest Dairy Center forward
Raised on a Maine beef farm, Dr. Barbara Jones earned impressive credentials in the dairy field through her graduate studies. Now she has brought those credentials and her energy to the Texas dairy industry as the newest director of the Southwest Regional Dairy Center at Tarleton State University, which has a mission to provide enabling infrastructure support for teaching, research and service/outreach programs to meet the need of higher education, the dairy industry and society in Texas and the Southwest. In addition, Jones also is an assistant professor at Tarleton.
TAD recently asked Dr. Jones a few questions so our members could get to know the new leader moving the Southwest Regional Dairy Center forward.
Welcome to Texas! Please tell our Texas dairy community a little about your background, particularly as it pertains to agriculture.
I grew up on a small hobby beef farm in southern Maine where I raised replacement Holstein heifers for 4-H and college funds. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture economics in 2007 from Purdue. After my undergraduate career, I worked as a herd manager on a few different farms before deciding to pursue my master’s degree. In 2011, I moved to Kentucky and started a master’s program at the University of Kentucky where I studied the impact of two different freestall bases on cow comfort. I continued at the University of Kentucky for my Ph.D., where I studied detection of lameness using precision dairy monitoring technologies and the prevention of digital dermatitis through different footbathing solutions.
What attracted you to accept the position as director of the Southwest Regional Dairy Center?
Originally the attraction of the position was being able to work so closely with students. Students are the best part of any university and are my favorite part of working in academia. Once I started my position, I quickly realized the challenges faced by the Center, and that has made me extremely passionate about the Center. The Center has the opportunity to be something truly amazing for the Texas dairy industry and beyond; we just have to get it to that point.
Now that you’ve had a chance to settle in, what is your assessment of the Center and its operations?
The Center is extremely underutilized. We need to conduct more research, host more tours, hold field days, and generate overall more activity at the dairy. We are in a great position where working with a private producer allows the day-to-day management of the dairy to run smoothly. We have access to a high-producing, well-run herd and the luxury of having cow numbers to conduct research that most universities do not have access to.
What are your short- and long-range goals for the Center?
Short term goals: generate more research projects. The Center is a research center, and that needs to always be at the front of everyone’s mind.
Long term goals: continue with more research projects and then increase public dairy education. Hosting public tours is not enough, we need to hold events like Breakfast on the Farm and other activities that engage the public.
Why is the Center important for the Texas dairy industry – or is there a broader importance for the region or the country?
The Center is important not only for Texas, the southwest region or the United States, but is important for the whole world. We have the opportunity to be a leader in the dairy industry because we can conduct applied research projects that directly impact dairy producers.
What can Texas dairy farmers, and the broader Texas dairy community, do to support the Center?
First off, thank you to all the producers who have participated in research projects, and thank you to producers who have allowed my dairy challenge team to visit and evaluate their farm. Continuing to support research that is unable to be held at the Center and supporting student teams and clubs is important. I also think it is important to push the Center and to hold it accountable to be the best that it can be. I am positive that we are headed in the right direction and am excited for the future. ▪
Dr. Barbara Jones
Southwest Regional Dairy Center
Barbara Jones is from Hiram, Maine, where she grew up on her family’s beef farm raising replacement Holstein heifers for 4-H and college funds. She received a B.S. in agriculture economics from Purdue University in 2007. In 2014, she completed her M.S. in dairy systems management at the University of Kentucky under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Bewley. Her Ph.D. work under the direction of Bewley focused on prevention and detection of lameness using precision dairy monitoring technologies.
Currently, she is the director of the Southwest Regional Dairy Center and assistant professor at Tarleton State University. ▪