Friday, November 19, 2010
Animal Welfare Judging
I'm currently sitting in a hotel room in Lansing, Michigan where myself and the rest of my teammates are preparing for the 8th annual Animal Welfare Judging Competition hosted by Michigan State University. This is KSU's first venture into this new world of animal welfare judging, a competition that I can imagine a lot of people would have no idea what is involved. I'll try to explain by giving a little background.
As many of you know, animal welfare is a topic of growing public concern nationwide, and as such, the livestock community has adapted to these concerns by offering production systems that produce beef, pork, lamb or poultry in ways that may alleviate some of these consumer concerns (ex. antibiotic-free pork, cage-free eggs and pen-housed sows). There has also been a push amongst universities to provide a educational experience activity to teach students how to more effectively assess the well-being of different animal species in separate situations.
The judging contest here at MSU is a two day event that starts with seminars by animal science professionals tomorrow morning covering the species and topics that will be evaluated during the contest. In the afternoon, each team competes in the "Group Assessment" live scenario which this year revolves around beef cattle that are housed in a covered feedlot. We will be traveling to the MSU Beef cattle center where we are given information and a scenario and are told to evaluate the conditions in which the animals are kept. Afterward, we present an 8-10 minute presentation regarding the strengths and possible improvements necessary in the given scenario.
On Sunday, we will be evaluating scenarios individually. Each year, three scenarios are given covering a livestock specie, a domestic animal specie, and an exotic specie. This year's chosen animals are: broiler chickens (meat chickens), police dogs, and giraffes housed in zoos. In each scenario, we will be watching a Powerpoint presentation illustrating two constructed scenarios and we are asked to compare/contrast the advantages and challenges in both settings. As you can imagine, each species has unique considerations and it is important to know alot about each specie and how they naturally act before assessing their housing and environment. After each of these scenarios, we will be asked to give a 3 minute speech to a judge covering our summary of the comparison of the two-settings.
Overall, I am really excited for the competition and I think that it is a great way to teach students how to recognize situations where animals are handled extremely well, and also to identify places in livestock operations, pet environments, and even zoos where changes could be made to improve the well-being of the animal. I for one hope this competition continues to grow and people like myself in the livestock industry can continue to train young professionals to not only understand the technical aspects of food production, but also teach them how to be good stockmen and women as well.
If you would like to find any more information about Michigan State's Animal Welfare competition, please go to: https://www.msu.edu/~zanella/awjc.html for details.
Thanks for reading,