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MU Students Take Honors in
Animal Welfare Contest

University of Missouri second-year veterinary medicine student Rachael Cohen (left) and animal science graduate student Judith Labounty display the awards they captured during the 9th Annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest. They are pictured with their coach, Dr. Ross Cowart.

University of Missouri second-year veterinary medicine student Rachael Cohen and animal science graduate student Judith Labounty captured honors at the 9th Annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest held Nov. 21-22 at Michigan State University.

The two MU students captured three trophies. Cohen won the First Place Overall Individual in the veterinary student category for the on-farm sheep assessment contest. Labounty also captured First Place Overall Individual in the on-farm sheep assessment in the graduate/undergraduate student division. Labounty was also named the Fourth Place Overall Individual in the graduate student category.

The contest, which is open to undergraduate, graduate and veterinary students, aims to increase student knowledge of animal welfare issues by adapting traditional livestock judging contests. Students, competing as individuals or in teams, are presented with hypothetical scenarios and evaluate how well each situation meets the need of the animals in each scenario. They review computer-based presentations that contain data, videos and photos of animals in two comparable situations. For the 2009 contest, competitors considered scenarios involving meat goats, farmed white tail deer and laboratory rats. There is also a category for on-farm assessment, which this year involved sheep.

After ranking the different options, students defend their reasons for their rankings to a panel of judges comprising experts in each field. Dr. Patricia Stewart of MU’s Office of Animal Resources, served on panel evaluating the students’ assessments of laboratory rats. The judges have a list of criteria on which to judge the students, such as their familiarity with welfare requirements and their knowledge of the breeds’ needs as regards veterinary care, vaccinations, facilities, nutrition and management.

MU didn’t enter any teams in the team contests division, so Cohen and Labounty prepared individually with the assistance of their coach for the event, MU large animal veterinarian Dr. Ross Cowart. Despite earning top marks in the sheep contest, which involved live animal evaluations, Cohen said she was unprepared for that aspect of the judging.

“I hadn’t expected to take part in the on-farm assessment because last year, individuals didn’t do that, just the teams,” she explained.

This was Cohen’s second year participating in the contest and she said one of her goals is to raise awareness among her peers about animal welfare issues.

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Last Update: February 24, 2012