Love of Science Turned Beef Guy to Dairy

By Amy Schmid, Administrative Program Specialist, & Jessica D. Linnell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Practice, Family & Community Health, OSU Extension Service, Tillamook County

What are you passionate about? Answers vary from individual to individual as much as fingerprints. Troy Downing is no exception. The difference with what he is passionate about is that most people would find it either boring as all get out or highly smelly. You see, what really gets Troy excited is grass growing and cow manure. He said, “I love to see the grass grow and the manure come out.”
It is fascinating listening to him speak about the seemingly mundane and possibly disgusting topics. He uses this passion to help the dairy industry solve problems, become efficient as possible and deliver the best possible products to the consumers.

Photo from @capitalpress of Troy speaking about dairy emissions at the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association annual conference


Troy’s work didn’t start with dairy cows. He said, “I started out as a beef guy.” Specifically, he studied gamete biology and his focus was cattle sperm. While working on his Master’s degree, Troy’s research led to the use of techniques for identifying viable sperm cells for insemination that is still referenced today.
In 1990, he joined OSU where he managed the dairy in Corvallis and taught classes there. When asked why Troy switched from beef to dairy, he said, “Beef is quite boring compared to dairy.” In 1997 Troy moved to Tillamook County to become the Regional Dairy Specialist and he’s been working here to help provide solutions to dairy issues ever since. (Note: Interestingly, 1997 happens to be the same year that our 4-H Administrative Program Specialist, Amy Schmid, was the 4-H intern but we’ll talk more about Amy in a later article.)
Today Troy is one of only two OSU Extension Service State Dairy Specialists, which until last year he was the only person to hold the position. He is housed at the Tillamook County Extension Service, where he also provides leadership to the county staff as the County Leader for the Tillamook Office.
Troy describes his role at Extension as understanding processes and providing recommendations based on research-tested practices. He said, “I love science in terms of learning new things to help solve problems.” Some of Troy’s work in dairy research has included identifying approaches to reduce ammonia emissions and identifying the best grasses for feed so that dairies can select the ones that will result in the best quality and most efficient milk production.

Another part of Troy’s job is to learn about best practices that are being used by dairies in Oregon and sharing them with the rest of the world. This past May, Troy hosted farmers from New Zealand. They came here to learn about the practices of dairies in Oregon that they could apply in their country.
When we asked Troy what he likes most about the work he does at OSU Extension he said, “I enjoy learning, solving problems, and doing something meaningful for someone somewhere.”

By Extension, Your Connection to the Programs, People, and Publications from OSU Extension Tillamook County

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