Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Dairy Science
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
The building is located on the corner of Washington Street and West Campus Drive, the former site of a student parking lot. When it was opened in 1981, it was called the Animal Science Building. It was later named Litton-Reaves Hall.
3050, Mail Code:0306 Blacksburg VA 24061
Litton-Reaves Hall
Degree(s) Offered:
MSLFS Degree in Dairy Science
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Offered In:
Email Contact(s):
Web Resource(s):
Phone Number(s):
Application Deadlines:
Fall: Aug 01
Spring: Jan 01
Summer I: May 01
Summer II: Jun 01
To get Google Maps directions from:

The Graduate School
Litton-Reaves Hall

Get Directions

Department Head : David Gerrard
Professors: Mark Hanigan; Katharine Knowlton
Associate Professors: Benjamin Corl; Kristy Daniels; Gonzalo Ferreira; Christina Petersson-Wolfe
Assistant Professors: Rebecca Cockrum; Johan Osorio Estevez
David R. and Margaret Lincicome Professor of Agriculture: Mark Hanigan
Colonel Horace E. Alphin Professor: Katharine Knowlton

Department of Dairy Science

The Dairy Science Department recognizes the significant contributions made by graduate students to departmental research, teaching, and extension programs and is committed to providing the best possible opportunity for students to learn and develop as professionals in their areas of interest.

Application Process

The GRE exam is required for all applicants.  The results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for applicants who did not receive their bachelor's degrees from an Anglophone university and whose first language is not English.  We currently expect a minimum TOEFL score of 90 (IBT) or IELTS score of 6.5 for admission.  Further, TOEFL scores of 20 or greater in Listening, Writing, Speaking, and Reading subsections are required.

Three letters of recommendation are required.  We strongly encourage applicants to have online recommendations completed.  Applicants are asked to provide names and email addresses for each reference in the online application.  If applicants choose to have paper letters of recommendation submitted, the letters should be sent to the attention of Becky Michael in the Dairy Science Department. 

It is expected that applicants should be near completion of a B.S. or M.S. degree in animal or dairy science, biology, microbiology, biochemistry, related biological fields, agricultural economics, or agricultural finance. Students should have a 3.0 GPA or greater and strong scientific writing and communication skills.

Students are strongly encouraged to apply online. Applying online streamlines the application process and reduces processing time. Applicants must pay a $75 non-refundable fee.

Terms of Employment

Many graduate students in Dairy Science receive financial support in the form of a graduate research assistantship or graduate teaching assistantship. Since all students conduct research as a part of degree requirements and most students assist in some way with the teaching of classes, the Department of Dairy Science makes no meaningful distinction between graduate research and teaching assistantships. Some students are recipients of fellowships awarded through the College, University, or Graduate School, and a few are supported by their own funds or funds from their home country, in the case of some international students. Regardless of the source or amount of support, all graduate students are considered to be half time employees of the department. As such, graduate students are expected to work 20 hours per week (50 weeks per year with two weeks paid vacation) in support of departmental research, teaching, and/or extension programs. Much of this is related to the thesis or dissertation research conducted by all students and is heavily concentrated in the latter stages of a student's degree program. However, graduate students also are expected to contribute to departmental research projects, assist in classroom teaching, and participate in extension programs as requested by their faculty supervisors, to whom they are directly responsible. Participation in departmental research, teaching and extension activities serves not only to support departmental programs, but also to train students in areas important to eventual career success.

Offered In (Blacksburg)

Degree Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.0
Institution code: 5859
Testing Requirements:
    • Paper
      • Minimum : 577.0
    • Computer
      • Minimum : 233.0
    • iBT
      • Minimum : 90.0
  • GRE
    • Average Scores of Candidates
      • Verbal : 150.0
      • Quantitative : 165.0
      • Analytic Writing : 3.5
Graduate Advisory Committee

All students are assigned a faculty supervisor (major professor) prior to, or immediately after initial enrollment. Assignments should be mutually agreeable to both student and faculty member, and each faculty supervisor should have an active research program in the area of student interest. Within the first or second semesters of enrollment, each student should work with his/her faculty supervisor to establish an advisory committee (three members for MS committees; four for Ph.D. committees) to assist in the development of a program of study and completion of the thesis or dissertation research project. Advisory Committee members are expected to provide appropriate and timely input to the academic and research programs of the student. Conversely, both students and faculty supervisors are expected to assure appropriate involvement of the advisory committees in each student's program. Students should discuss any problems related to their advisory committee with their faculty supervisor and, if needed, with the department head.

Credit Hour Loads

Full-time credit hour loads are 12 hours in Fall and Spring semesters (in addition to courses audited). Typically, students will register for 6 to 9 hours of formal course work (2 to 3 classes) during Fall and Spring terms (or less during the latter stages of a graduate program), and for sufficient hours of Research and Thesis (MS) or Research and Dissertation (PhD) credits to complete the 12-hour, full-time load. Note that this is required for payment of assistantships and for progression from assistantship step 1 to step 2, since step 2 requires the completion of 24 credit hours.

Students who, prior to the beginning of a semester, will have 1) fulfilled all residency and course requirements  2) scheduled their final exam to take place by the Friday of the third week of classes and 3) submit a final thesis or dissertation to their committee during the first three weeks of the semester, are eligible to request registration for 1 hour as Start of Semester Defense Exception. A certification form, available from the departmental office, must be submitted to the Graduate School in order to be registered as Start of Semester Defense Exception . Registration may affect eligibility for assistantships and certain student benefits and/or loans since students so registered do not pay the comprehensive fee and are not classified as full-time students.

Evaluation of Performance and Progress toward Degree

In an effort to foster communications between graduate students, their faculty supervisors, and advisory committees, the Dairy Science Department requires an annual evaluation and communication of graduate student performance and progress toward either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. The process is initiated with a written report, from each graduate student to his/her faculty supervisor, which appropriately details the graduate student's academic and research program progress during the preceding year. The form of the report is the prerogative of the faculty supervisor and due by February 1st of each year or earlier as designated by the faculty supervisor. In response, faculty supervisors write a letter by March 1st of each year which details the supervisor's evaluation of each graduate student's performance and progress toward a degree. Graduate students and faculty supervisors meet at an appropriate and convenient time to discuss the student's report and supervisor's evaluation, concentrating most especially on any differences in expectations or evaluation between the student and supervisor. Both the student's report and supervisor's letter will become a part of the student's file. It is expected that advisory committee members will be used appropriately to develop each student's academic program, in the planning and execution of the research project, and in contributing to the evaluation letter. A form that serves to more clearly define guidelines and requirements is available.  Briefly, students must be registered for the minimum of three credits in the semester/summer they take an examination or when a degree is completed.  If a dissertation is ready for defense by the beginning of a semester (See for the deadlines for each semester of the current year) the student may qualify for Defending Student Status (DSS, 1 credit;
The department has created a Graduate Student Progress Check List and the Annual Graduate Student Evaluation Form. These are included at the end of this document.

Time Limits for Degree Programs

Guidelines for time to complete graduate degree programs are established as departmental policy in the interest of both the department and student. As a general guideline, it is expected that MS programs will be completed within two years and that Doctoral programs will require no more than three years. Students receiving financial assistance are assured of continuing support for these periods of time. In the event that circumstances prevent completion of a degree within the prescribed time limit, it is the responsibility of the student's faculty supervisor to request or provide an extension of financial support.

Annual Evaluation Guidelines

There are two new forms that will become part of the student record in the department.

The first is a DASC Graduate Student Checklist and the second is a DASC Annual Student Evaluation Form. Copies of these forms are also included at the end of this document. Copies of the forms (saved as word documents) are available on the Department website.

The annual evaluation of graduate students provides an opportunity to insure that appropriate progress toward degree requirements is occurring and to allow for adjustments in the program of study, teaching activities, or research efforts. It is also important to keep the advisory committees informed. 

Evaluations occur in the Spring Semester (see above) - to meet pending graduate school requirements -- first evaluations may be brief. However, the following elements are expected to be part of the evaluation documentation as appropriate.

  • Signatures of the Major Advisor and Committee Members (likely not applicable during your first evaluation cycle).
  • Milestones accomplished - for example, filing of the program of study or scheduling of the preliminary exam (for a Ph.D. student).
  • Documentation indicating that a regular meeting of the student advisory committee was held and a brief written summary of major conclusions from the meeting (may not apply with initial evaluations).
  • List of publications.
  • List of professional talks.
  • Documentation of teaching activities.
  • Listing of service activities.
  • Awards and other honors.
  • General academic progress - i.e. satisfactory progress in class work as well as research activities.
  • Comments by the student
  • Signature of Student - to indicate that her or she read and understands the document

Department of Dairy Science Facilites

The Department has laboratory and animal facilities to support its missions in teaching, research, and extension.


The Department resides in Litton Reaves Hall, a modern, well equipped, office building.  In addition to offices, it includes extensive laboratory space with state of the art equipment and classroom facilities. Laboratories supporting physiology, molecular biology, nutrition, health, and quantitative research are included.

Virginia Tech Dairy

The Virginia Tech Dairy Science Complex is located at Kentland Farm. 

Lactating cows are housed in a 232 stall freestall barn where feed consumption can be monitored for research. The barn features drovers alleys on both sides and research pens on one side.  It is double sloped to middle and utilizes sand bedding. The sand is recycled using a weeping wall system for manure management.

The milking facility is designed for animal handling with a double 12 parallel parlor and houses administrative offices.  There is also a special needs barn for use with weaned calves, breeding age heifers and close up dry cows. Additionally, there's a calf barn with automatic feeders and weaned calf pens.

Facilities and equipment for research with all ages of animals are present at the farm and support both applied and basic research in the department.

Add this course listing feed to your website.
XML Feed Widget

Course Listing for Dairy Science