River Falls animal welfare team scores high

Wisconsin State Farmer

River Falls — The team from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls was the high scoring team in the live assessment portion of the 16th Annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment (AWJAC) Competition hosted by Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 12-13.

The UW-River Falls Animal Welfare Judging Team included (L-R): Kaleiah Schiller, Sarah Heck, Sara Odegard, Ashley Bue and Faith Baier.

The five member team from UW-River Falls consisted of:  Faith Baier, animal science-meat animal emphasis major from River Falls; Ashley Bue, biology major from Lanesboro, Minn.; Sarah Heck, agricultural business major from Durand; Sara Odegard, animal science meat animal emphasis major from River Falls; and Kaleiah Schiller, animal science-companion animal emphasis major from Danbury.  The team was coached by Kurt Vogel, associate professor of animal science and Kraft/Oscar Mayer Faculty Scholar of Livestock Welfare and Behavior.

Thirteen schools from the U.S. and Canada competed in the undergraduate division contest that consists of several virtual scenarios and one live or on-site assessment. The three species classes that were evaluated in the virtual scenarios this year were: laboratory guinea pigs, meat sheep, and purebred breeding dogs.

Two hypothetical scenarios are presented for each class and include performance, health, physiological and behavioral data, husbandry and housing information, video clips and still photos. Each team evaluates the scenarios, determines which facility has a higher level of welfare and prepares, presents and defends their position to a panel of judges.

The live on-site assessment exercise is typically conducted at an operating animal facility. The student teams analyze the information presented and observed, and present their findings to a panel of judges, including any recommendations for welfare-related changes at the facility. For 2016, the species class for live, on-site assessment was laying hens.

In addition to the competition, there is an educational component featuring invited speakers with expertise in animal welfare. Together the program and competition further the goal of AWJAC, to train future professionals to gather and evaluate information for addressing societal concerns in an unbiased way.

For more information, email laura.walsh@uwrf.edu.