By STEVEN NALLEY
Kelli Jones has a reputation as Mississippi’s “backyard bird veterinarian.”
Most days, Jones works with poultry as an assistant clinical professor in Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine. Sometimes, she said, she delves into what she calls the “other” Mississippi poultry industry.
“For the last few years, nearly every Saturday morning has been spent at a flea market or poultry auction collecting samples,” Jones said. “I visit Mississippi sites that are selling backyard fowl as part of the USDA Live Bird Market System Avian Influenza Program. This includes testing birds for not only avian influenza, but also for mycoplasmas, initiating the first state databank of individual backyard bird premises.”
Now, Jones also has an international reputation as the 2012 World Veterinary Poultry Association Young Veterinarian of the Year.
Pfizer Animal Health Global Poultry and the WVPA created the award to recognize veterinarians under the age of 35 for outstanding contributions to the poultry industry’s success. In an MSU press release, Trevor Bagust said the importance of such contributions cannot be overstated.
“Maintaining excellent bird health and welfare is at the very heart of efficient poultry production,” Bagust said. “Veterinarians have a key role to play in successful poultry businesses.”
Danny Magee, director of the MSU Poultry Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, nominated Jones for the award. He said all five of the MSU CVM’s poultry veterinarians are world-class, and he would have nominated them all if they were all below 35.
“(Jones is) an example of the quality individuals we have on our faculty,” Magee said. “It’s something that Mississippi State can certainly be proud of, that Mississippi State hires quality individuals, recognized within the state, nationally and internationally.”
Jones said she first developed an interest in poultry 13 years ago when she took a poultry science class as a sophomore at Louisiana State University. As her career developed, she said she developed a specialty in breeding “broilers,” an industry term for poultry raised for meat production.
“After obtaining veterinary and master’s of avian medicine degrees, I began my career in technical services for Aviagen, one of the largest producers of poultry genetics in the world,” Jones said. “The broiler breeder experience that I gained over four years with Aviagen has proven to be invaluable. I am considered one of the few broiler breeder experts in poultry medicine.”
Magee said Jones’ background with Aviagen has been an asset to MSU, where she joined the faculty in 2009. Other assets, he said are her confidence and her personality, which enable her to relate with and provide consulting to national and international poultry producers.
“One of Dr. Jones’ main roles at the PRDL is to provide veterinary services to Mississippi’s commercial poultry industry,” Magee said. “She accomplishes this through field service visits, laboratory investigations and research projects. Her involvement with the industry has also given her the opportunity to share poultry medicine with veterinary, undergraduate, and graduate students. She also contributes to her profession by speaking at meetings and serving on professional committees for both the American College of Poultry Veterinarians and the American Association of Avian Pathologists.”
Jones said her international consulting has taken her to eleven countries on four continents. She also provides avian veterinary services at the Jackson Zoo and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum.
“The exotic birds at the zoo make for very unique experiences,” Jones said. “For instance, I have recently been involved in the care and testing of oil spill victims rescued from the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill of 2010. Somehow, I have managed to find the perfect poultry career; one that allows me to be home as often as I have to, travel as often as I need to, and be in a chicken house as often as I want to.”