Iowa State veterinary medicine students excel in animal welfare judging and assessment

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University veterinary medicine students took high honors at the Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Competition recently. ISU-UNL second-year student Jennafer Glaesemann, Fairbury, Neb., placed first in the individual competition, and Iowa State's team placed second in the veterinary college competition.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsored the veterinary division of the competition, which was held last month at Michigan State University (MSU), East Lansing.

The competition helps veterinary students recognize and develop the analytical skills and understanding of ethics necessary for success in the field of animal welfare. Students must be familiar with physiological and behavioral indicators of animal welfare, and be able to evaluate how well a given situation suits the animal.

Students are given two scenarios for each species being judged. They then evaluate the scenarios, prepare an analysis and give an oral presentation on their ranking. The scenarios are realistic and help prepare veterinary students for the challenges they will face professionally.

This year's on-farm team assessment considered the welfare of layer chickens, turkeys and Coturnix quail. Students participating as individuals evaluated the welfare of Przewalski horses (Takhi), domestic cats and dairy cattle.

"The contest is a great teaching tool, because it helps students to apply their knowledge about animal welfare, in terms of the scientific and ethical components, and then communicate their reasoning to a team of experts," said Dr. Suzanne Millman, team coach and associate professor in the departments of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine, and biomedical sciences.

"For veterinarians, discussing animal welfare with their clients and with the public is an increasingly important part of the job," Millman said. "It was very rewarding to see how our students worked together as a team, sharing their individual expertise and rationalizing their decisions. The students also had the opportunity to meet with some of the top experts in the field of animal welfare and to network with veterinary and animal science students who share their interests. I think we all had fun with it and learned a tremendous amount."

Glaesemann said she gained a better understanding of the welfare challenges facing the species presented in the competition.

"More importantly, I was forcibly struck by the relevance this contest has on my veterinary educational experience," Glaesemann said. "Not only did it teach me about a very important aspect of veterinary medicine, it also made me extend my critical thinking abilities and utilize my classroom/book knowledge in order to apply it to real-life situations and formulate real solutions."

The University of Guelph (Canada) placed first and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, placed third in the team competition. This was the eighth annual Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Competition hosted at MSU, and the second veterinary student division sponsored by AVMA.