Grand Challenges

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Animal Health and Welfare

Animal welfare is a complex and multi-faceted issue that reflects the integration of traditional animal science disciplines and their interactions with the environment. It is critical to the social license of animal production and the economic viability of livestock farming, and it is the lens through which both scientists and consumers will view new tools and strategies in nutrition, physiology, genetics, and management.

Students will:

  • Learn fundamental aspects of animal production, health, and welfare.
  • Integrate foundational knowledge with advanced technologies, sustainable agriculture applications, in the promotion of social responsibility, and in the improvement of animal systems.
  • Understand all biological aspects that contribute to animal health and welfare.
  • Graduate prepared to improve veterinary care, enhance farm management, and understand the relationships of humans with companion, zoo, livestock, and laboratory animals.

Biomedical Advancements

Traditional processes for development, testing, and approval of new pharmaceuticals are extremely costly, and success rates in human subjects are low. Livestock are effective models for many human diseases and disorders, especially when coupled with gene editing and other biotechnologies. Furthermore, various co-products of meat, milk, or egg production, which were historically discarded as waste, may have bioactive properties that can provide novel therapies or nutritional supplements to improve human or animal health.

Students will:

  • Acquire basic knowledge of functioning systems of organs, tissues, cells, and molecules that drive underlying physiological processes in livestock and poultry.
  • Learn translational approaches for employing animals to achieve biomedical advances.
  • Gain fundamental insights into animal-related entrepreneurial ecosystems and learn the concepts behind innovation, discovery, and product development.
  • Experience caring for biomedical animals.
  • Prepare for careers at the interface of animal science and human medicine.

Food Safety

A steady supply of safe and nutritious animal-based proteins is the foundation of global food security. It is our responsibility to protect consumers from harmful agents that can endanger public health, from the farm to the table. In addition, we must deliver food products that meet the nutritional requirements of the generic consumer, reduce the prevalence of obesity-related health disorders, and accommodate the specific dietary needs of individuals with unique nutritional demands or underlying medical conditions.

Students will:

  • Learn the fundamentals of food safety at all levels of the food animal supply chain—focusing on the biology, genetics, and ecology of foodborne pathogens.
  • Understand how to provide safe food with minimal risk to the consumer.
  • Become knowledgeable in the fundamentals of food preservation, with a focus on minimizing spoilage and nutrient loss.
  • Comprehend the connections and interactions between animal production food safety concepts and other academic disciplines.
  • Graduate ready to pursue a wide range of employment opportunities.

Land and Water Stewardship

The demand for animal-based proteins continues to grow as our population expands, but livestock farming must compete with commercial, residential, and recreational users of land and water resources. Animal agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions but also suffers from the effects of global warming and climate variability. Fluency in integrating nutritional management and feed production at the system level will become as important as knowledge of basic nutrition and physiology concepts at the animal level.

Students will:

  • Learn the fundamental aspects of animal agriculture.
  • Study forage crop production, focusing on quality and nutritional value.
  • Understand the integration of animal operations with broader agricultural systems.
  • Identify strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate variability, and promote environmental responsibility and sustainability.
  • Recognize the connections and interactions between traditional animal sciences and other areas such as agronomy, soil sciences, environmental sciences, and ecology—at both the animal and system levels—through interdisciplinary and hands-on learning.

Precision Livestock Farming

Technologies for monitoring the behavior, physiology, and health of domestic animals, as well as machine learning algorithms for interpreting big data, have progressed at an astonishing rate. These tools provide unprecedented opportunities to advance animal welfare, enhance labor efficiency, improve economic returns, and minimize the environmental impact of livestock operations, if they are implemented in a strategic and cost-effective manner.

Students will:

  • Learn the basics of modern digital tools used to monitor animal behavior and well-being, provide early detection of diseases, optimize reproductive management, and deliver precision feeding of livestock and companion animals.
  • Become familiar with various omics techniques, such as genomic tools for selective breeding of livestock populations and microbiome tools for ensuring food safety.
  • Gain competency in the fundamentals of data analytics and data-driven decision tools.
  • Experience—through hands-on opportunities—how sensor and robotics technologies can help farmers raise healthy and productive animals in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner.

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Graduate School - Professional Development