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Mark Hanigan

David R. and Margaret Lincicome Professor of Agriculture
Professional photo of Dr. Mark Hanigan.
School of Animal Sciences
3310 Litton-Reaves Hall
175 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Dr. Hanigan’s formal education includes post-doctoral work in Biochemistry at UC-Davis; a Ph.D. in Nutrition, and an M.S. in Animal Science from UC-Davis; and a B.S. in Dairy Science from Iowa State University.  Prior to undergraduate work, he operated a dairy farm in Iowa.

In 1993, he joined Purina Mills, Inc. as a research scientist where he worked on modeling metabolism in the lactating animal with emphasis on nitrogen metabolism.  In support of that effort, he collaborated with a number of individuals both within Purina Mills and externally to develop metabolic and isotopic models of mammary, liver, and portal drained viscera tissues.

Dr. Hanigan joined Virginia Tech as an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Dairy Science in 2005 where he continues to work on nitrogen metabolism and modelling problems.  His current research is focused in 3 areas:

  1. experimentally characterizing protein synthesis responses to individual amino acids and energy supply and refining amino acid requirements for lactating cattle;
  2. assessing transport of each of the amino acids by mammary cells in response to amino acid supplies; and
  3. developing a precision feeding control system based on real-time sensor data and an advanced model of ruminant metabolism.  

The long-term objective of the work is to improve animal efficiency and reduce the impact of food animal production on the environment.

Experimental models include the use of intact animals, abomasal and jugular infusions, tissue arterio-venous difference studies, tissue slices, and primary cells.  Stable isotopes are used extensively to trace metabolism, and compartmental models are used to derive biological interpretations of the isotope data. The laboratory is equipped with 3 gas chromatographs with mass spectrometers allowing extensive analyses of isotope movement through the animal.

Dr. Hanigan’s laboratory group consists of a technician, a post-doctoral student, graduate students, visiting scientists, and undergraduate students assisting with projects and conducting their own work.

Our group's primary interest is the regulation of energy and nitrogen metabolism in the ruminant and the resulting impact on the environment. Efforts to better understand regulation of metabolism should lead to improvements in feed efficiency which reduce the impact of the animals on the environment.

We are currently working on 3 projects:

  1. quantification of the mechanisms controlling amino acid transport, metabolism, and protein synthesis in lactating mammary tissue;
  2. use of a precision feeding control system to identify animals with improved protein efficiency; and
  3. assessment of the contribution of blood urea to ruminal microbial protein synthesis. 

We are also collaborating on the effects of heat stress on amino acid absorption from the intestine and ruminal volatile fatty acid and alcohol metabolism.

Experimental approaches include in vitro and in vivo studies. Data collected are integrated using models of pathway, tissue, and whole animal metabolism.  These models provide a means to interpret and extend the experimental observations. Pathway or cellular models provide a quantitative understanding of the processes of interest. Tissue and whole animal models can be used to explore the effects of various dietary treatments and identify key components defining metabolic responses. These components can then be distilled and incorporated into software to be used by industry for balancing rations on farm. We hope to use data collected from our experimental efforts to improve current metabolic models and use those to define new nutrient supply and requirement equations for industry use.



Mathematical Modeling in Nutrition and Agriculture, Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Mathematical Modeling In Nutrition, Roanoke, VA, August 14-17 2006.  Bassingthwaighte, James B., Raymond C. Boston, Christina Chan, Andrew J. Clifford, Dr. C.M.B. Dematawewa, James France, Michael Green, James Hargrove, Mark Hanigan, Rick Kohn, Janet A.Novotny, Kimberly O'Brien, Jim Oltjen, Chris Palliser, Blossom Patterson, Candido Pomar, Ganesh Sriram, Normand St-Pierre, Meryl Wastney.  Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.


  1. Crompton, L. A., J. France, R. S. Dias, E. Kebreab, and M. D. Hanigan. 2008. Compartmental models of protein turnover to resolve isotope dilution data.  In: J. France and E. Kebreab (Eds.) Mathematical modeling in animal nutrition.  CABI Publishing, Wallingford.
  2. Hanigan, M. D., A. G. Rius*, and C. C. Palliser. 2008. Modeling lactation potential in a whole animal model.  In: Mathematical modeling in animal nutrition (J. France and E. Kebreab, Eds.).  pp. 485-506. CABI Publishing, Wallingford.
  3. France, J., L. A. Crompton, M. D. Hanigan, R. S. Dias, and J. Dijkstra. 2007.  Using static balance models to analyze and extend observations.  In: Mathematical modeling in nutrition and agriculture (M. D. Hanigan, J. A. Novotny, and C. L. Marstaller, Eds.). pp. 15-38. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.
  4. Bequette, B. J., M. D. Hanigan, and H. Lapierre.  2003.  Mammary uptake and metabolism of amino acids by lactating ruminants. IN: Amino Acids in Farm Animal Nutrition. 2nd Edition. (J. P. F. D’Mello ed.). pp. 347-365. CABI Publishing.  Wallingford, Oxon, U.K.
  5. Hanigan, M. D., and R. L. Baldwin. 1995.  Dynamic models of ruminant mammary metabolism. In: Modeling Ruminant Digestion and Metabolism.  pp. 370-412. New York: Chapman and Hall.
  6. Baldwin, R. L., C. C. Calvert, M. D. Hanigan, and J. Beckett. 1994.  Modelling amino acid metabolism in ruminants.  IN: Amino Acids in Farm Animal Nutrition (J. P. F. D’Mello ed.). pp281-306.  CAB International.  Wallingford, Oxon, UK.
  7. Baldwin, R. L., and M. D. Hanigan. 1990. Biological and physiological systems: Animal Sciences. In: Systems Theory Applied to Agriculture and the Food Chain. pp.1-22. Elsevier Sci. Publ. LTD




  1. Mathematical modeling in nutrition and agriculture. M. D. Hanigan, J. A. Novotny, and C. L. Marstaller, eds.  2007. Virginia Tech. Blacksburg.

Tara Wiles

Research Associate
Tatiane Fernandes

Campos, Leticia, Ph.D.
Hruby, Alexis, Ph.D.


  • 1991 - Ph.D.   University of California, Davis--Nutrition, minor Physiological Chemistry
  • 1989 -  M.S.    University of California, Davis--Animal Science
  • 1987 -  B.S.    Iowa State University--Dairy Science
  • American Dairy Science Association

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