Up & Coming Leader Zoe Kiefer Tackles Sow Mortality

( Provided by Zoe Kiefer )

Meet Zoe Kiefer, our latest addition to Farm Journal's PORK's Up & Coming Leaders feature. We are showcasing some of the fresh, new voices of the pork industry who combine innovative thought and work ethic with scientific savvy and a passion to make a difference. 

Age: 24
Hometown: Plainfield, Illinois
Education: Bachelor’s degree in animal science and currently pursuing a master’s degree in reproductive biology, Iowa State University

Q. How did you end up pursuing a Ph.D. in the swine industry?
I first became interested in the swine industry after helping on project at a commercial sow farm during my undergraduate years. I was able to help Dr. Elizabeth Hines on her PhD project. I credit her with sparking my interest in swine research. I was interested in reproduction and research and was trying to get out of my comfort zone to learn about other species. I was able to continue as an undergrad research assistant and help on many other pig-related projects. I really enjoy the mixture of both on farm and lab work that the swine research projects I work on provides.  

Q. Did you participate in any internships as an undergraduate?
I have had a wide variety of internships. I’ve done everything from working in a veterinary clinic to working in a zoo and from a human resources internship to a research internship on a commercial sow farm. 

Q. What research opportunities did you pursue as an undergraduate?
I worked in Dr. Jason Ross’s lab as an undergraduate student. His lab group focuses on reproduction and biotechnology. We investigated everything from the effects of heat stress on pig reproduction to developing and using pigs as biomedical models. I really enjoyed the wide range of research that we did, from emphasis on improving producer outcomes to also benefiting human health researchers.

Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
I had never been around pigs until I attended Iowa State University. There was some exposure during classes as an undergraduate, but I was able to get the “full experience” after helping on research projects during my junior year of college. 

Q. Tell us about your current research.
Sow mortality, as the result of pelvic organ prolapse, has increased in the past five years in the U.S. swine industry. Through a collaborative project with the Iowa Pork Industry Center, we found that approximately 21% of mortality is due to pelvic organ prolapse. I am studying pelvic organ prolapse in sows and trying to identify factors that may be contributing causes in hopes of developing a mitigation strategy to decrease prolapse incidence on sow farms.

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Up & Coming Leader Mickie Trudeau Investigates Antibiotic Alternatives

Up & Coming Leaders: Meet Garrett See

Up & Coming Leaders: Meet Paula Chen