Prof Joseph Baloyi, HoD of Animal Science and former Vice Dean of the School of Agriculture, at UNIVEN was the recipient of Fulbright Fellowship and was hosted by the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia. Prof Baloyi’s fellowship was from 1st June 2021 to 31st December 2021. The Fulbright Fellowship is meant to enable one to interact with fellow animal nutritionists in the developed world, particularly at University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia and participate in their graduate research activities. The Fulbright Fellowship seeks to further improve the research skills and outputs of the sending institutions. The lessons learned from this experience will not only enhance the teaching and supervisory skills but will commensurately increase the research skills and outputs for University of Venda (UNIVEN) postgraduate students. The purpose of the Fulbright programme is to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. Approximately 1,900 grants are available to over 140 countries.
At UGA, Prof Baloyi was hosted by the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences (ADS) under the stewardship of Dr Todd Riley Callaway, a Ruminant nutritionist. Since Fulbright does not fund research activities, Prof Baloyi stepped in to assist in some of Dr Callaway’s ongoing research projects. Dr Callaway has a well-equipped laboratory, where he mostly works on microbiology in the animal gut as it is affected by feeds. Prof Baloyi’s participation, included in-person laboratory experiences, visiting university farms, and working with graduate students. Prof Baloyi had full access to UGA’s staff, students and its world class research equipment and laboratories.
During his stay at UGA, Prof Baloyi conducted the following activities:
Learnt some basic laboratory techniques and was involved in an online training on Laboratory basic safety and Animal Care in Research; Together with the Department of ADS staff, visited Rock House Dairy, a Division of Kelly Products Incorporation in Eatonton where they make cheese and ice creams. Prof Baloyi was involved in some ongoing graduate research projects: the first project involved a PhD student who needed to take initial research data for her project. Prof Baloyi and the Department of ADS went to Northwest Georgia Research and Education Centre in Calhoun, the UGA Beef Farm that is about 300 km away near Rome. The whole Department of ADS went to the farm to assist the PhD student. Prof Baloyi was extremely impressed by the cooperation between the departmental staff and students.
- He also assisted an MSc student working on Mastitis to collect milk for somatic cells count (mastitis), rumen and faecal samples.
- Another MSc student is evaluating the effect of feeding Russell Bermuda grass cut at different stages of maturity on digestibility and volatile fatty acid production in horses.
- During his stay, Prof Baloyi also managed to further his own research interests and conducted a research project tilted: In vitro Dry Matter and fibre digestibility of different varieties of peanut tops and Bermuda grass forage. The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr Todd R. Callaway and Jeferson Lourenco and sought to evaluate the in vitro dry matter and fibre digestibility, gas and volatile fatty acid production of peanut (Arachis hypogea), tops from seven cultivars grown in Georgia and Bermuda (Cynodon dactylon) grass.
Prof Baloyi’s stay at UGA and his participation in the Fulbright fellowship will yield significant results for UNIVEN postgraduate students and will contribute to positioning the University for global influence. Prof Baloyi’s work at UGA and dedication will culminate in the production of some manuscripts for publication. On 14 September 2021, Prof Baloyi delivered a presentation titled “Livestock production, teaching and research in South Africa.” His presentation was part of the Animal & Dairy Science and Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication weekly seminar series.
Prof Baloyi’s excellent work and passion for UNIVEN, allowed him to concretise and strengthen ties between UGA and UNIVEN. His efforts culminated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UGA and UNIVEN. Under the MoU, UGA and UNIVEN will collaboratively exchange both staff and students between the two universities. This goes to show the value of collaboration and partnerships, where one exchange could potentially create more opportunities for the university over an even longer period.
There are many takeaways and lessons that emanated from Prof Baloyi’s visit to UGA, as well as some implications for UNIVEN. Despite the limited funding and being far away from friends and family, Prof Baloyi managed to fly the UNIVEN flag high. His visit will produce inter-alia;
▪ At least four papers still being considered for publication, these include two articles and two manuscripts.
▪ New research techniques and hands on experience in methane research work.
▪ The MoU between UGA and UNIVEN entered into force on 23 December 2021.
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