Students Prepare for the Animal Industry

Philip Elzer, Boudreaux, Charles M.  |  9/29/2017 3:10:27 PM

Louisiana’s animal industry is valuable, contributing millions of dollars to the state economy each year as well as providing countless opportunities for recreation, food and more. This industry has evolved considerably in recent decades. Technology now plays more of a role in animal production than ever before, and people are increasingly conscious of how animals are cared for and what impact they have on the environment. The School of Animal Sciences is working to meet the challenges of today’s industry through research, outreach and teaching efforts.

Our faculty and graduate students work together on research on reproductive efficiency in cattle and horses, ruminant nutrition, muscle quality of livestock, vaccine development and gene therapies. These focus areas are among the most crucial to the Louisiana animal industry. Research on these topics helps producers develop more reliable and consistent products. Vaccine research contributes to improved animal health, which is key to any successful livestock operation.

None of this work would be possible without AgCenter research stations, including the Reproductive Biology Center in St. Gabriel, the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria, the Hill Farm Research Station in Homer and the Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station in Clinton. Students in the School of Animal Sciences visit the Southeast Research Station in Franklinton for lessons on forage quality and dairy production. These facilities provide space for research projects and field trials.

Faculty members are involved in a number of extension activities that make research-based information accessible to those who need it. AgCenter research stations regularly hold cattle and forage field days. These events give attendees a chance to meet our personnel, learn about their latest research and see demonstrations on pasture care, forages, nutrition, waste management, reproduction and genetic improvements.

Animal sciences faculty also help coordinate livestock programs for youth in 4-H and FFA clubs; lead livestock training programs for 4-H agents; serve as advisers to producer groups and governmental agencies; assist with parish-level Master Cattleman and Master Horseman classes; and make farm visits to answer producers’ questions.

To ensure the continued success of these activities and the animal industry, the School of Animal Sciences curriculum has recently undergone important changes. Until this academic year, the school awarded an undergraduate degree in animal, dairy and poultry sciences. We have retitled the degree to be one in animal sciences, reflecting a new focus on providing students a well-rounded education in all aspects of this field.

Our goal is to give students the scientific background they need to be successful, whether they pursue a career as a cattle rancher, veterinarian or laboratory researcher, or even in a related field such as the pharmaceutical or food industries. It is critical that students are knowledgeable of animal science as a whole and understand how different specialized areas are linked.

New undergraduate classes are being offered on basic animal husbandry, equine topics and meat products. Laboratory components have been added to a number of existing courses. There also is a new mechanism to provide course credit to students who complete internships, which are highly encouraged. Internships enhance the students’ classroom education and give them real-world experience that makes them more attractive job candidates upon graduation.

Through research and education, the School of Animal Sciences gives producers the information they need today while making scientific discoveries that will benefit them tomorrow. Above all, our desire is to make sure animals, humans and the environment are all safe and healthy. We believe our school plays a valuable role in accomplishing this in Louisiana.

Philip Elzer is director of the School of Animal Sciences and the associate vice president for animal sciences and natural resources. He holds the Meraux Foundation Supreme Champion Livestock Professorship.

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Dana Bryant, a sophomore in animal sciences, holds a baby goat as she talks to visiting students during the 2017 College of Agriculture Ag Week event. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

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Morgan Richard, an animal sciences alumna, conducted research on dairy cows while a student. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

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Animal sciences student Nikhol Kelley rides away from the last obstacle of the barrel racing event during the 78th annual Block and Bridle Rodeo in 2015. Proceeds from the student rodeo benefit local charities. Photo by Olivia McClure

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