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MU Teams Take Fifth Place in
Animal Welfare Judging

University of Missouri students who participated in this year’s Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest are pictured (from left) Doug Suntrup, Rachael Cohen, Charles Robinson, Erin Geary, Anna Delabar and Allison Brennan

Six students from the University of Missouri traveled to East Lansing, Mich., to compete in the Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest held at Michigan State University Nov. 20-21, 2010. Three College of Veterinary Medicine students, Rachael Cohen, Charles Robinson and Doug Suntrup, participated as a team in the veterinary division. Three MU undergraduates, Allison Brennan, Anna Delabar and Erin Geary, competed in the undergraduate division. CVM Associate Professor Dr. Ross Cowart served as the coach for both teams.

The Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest uses a traditional livestock judging contest framework to teach students how to assess and critique the welfare of animals used for food production, research, as companions, and in other purposes. As in traditional judging contests, students judge the physical features of animals or systems on both an individual and team basis. After ranking the different options, students must defend their rankings to a panel of experts. Prior to competition, teams spend months preparing for the contest by learning subject material, performing practice assessments, and presenting oral arguments.

Third-year veterinary student Rachael has participated in the contest for three years. She said the contest has given her insight into animal behaviors that she wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to through the regular veterinary curriculum.

“I am learning more about how animal husbandry issues influence stereotypical behaviors. I’ve learned that the effects are more notable in exotic animals,” she said.

As part of the contest, team members evaluated how well a given situation suited an animal species’ evolutionary biology and met its biological needs. Students had to be familiar with various behavioral and physiological indicators of animal welfare and be able to evaluate different facilities, stockpersonship, and management systems. Students reviewed computer-based presentations containing data, videos and photos of animals under two comparable situations.

The 2010 contest saw teams visiting a covered feed lot and analyzing the animals’ nutrition, veterinary practices at the farm, and the vaccines the animals received. The MU veterinary team received the fourth-highest score among the teams for their feedlot presentation.

The individual portion of the contest followed the group presentation. Participants evaluated three different hypothetical scenarios and determined for each which of two options best protected the animals’ welfare. The scenarios involved giraffes in two zoos, broiler chickens at two farms and the environment of a police dog versus a guide dog. The students’ scores were then tallied and teams were ranked.

Both MU’s veterinary and undergraduate teams captured fifth-place honors. Geary earned fourth place as an individual in the undergraduate division.

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Last Update: February 24, 2012