Introductory Animal Sciences Laboratory Course Makes the Theoretical Relatable

Nov. 2, 2017

The Introductory Animal Sciences courses are the first exposure many Animal Sciences students have to the scientific or research principles of their major. While the quantity of unfamiliar information in the lecture course (ANIMSCI 2200.01) may seem overwhelming, the laboratory course (ANIMSCI 2200.02) helps to provide hands-on experience and practice making the introductory theoretical information more relatable.

ANIMSCI 2200.01 and .02 can be taken by students from any major. According to Dr. Joe Ottobre, Professor, “We have 26 students out of 127 that are non-Animal Sciences majors this semester.” When the two courses are combined, they can be used to meet the following General Education (GE) requirement: Natural Science-Biological Science with Lab. The two courses may be taken concurrently, or ANIMSCI 2200.02 may be taken after 2200.01.

Most students disliked the taste of hemp milkAccording to Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA) Alyssa Zack, a fourth-year Animal Sciences student from Doylestown, Ohio, “The class [2200.01] is very rigorous in the sense that you are getting so much new information thrown at you and most students don't have any background. I view the lab as a nice break from the class. I think the lab is fun, you get to spend time with animals and try out so many new activities, like collecting a rumen sample from a cow. It is also nice because concepts from 2200.01 are incorporated into the lab, so it helps to solidify some concepts when you are actually seeing them, for example digestive and reproductive systems.”

According to the ANIMSCI 2200.02 syllabus, “Introductory Animal Sciences Laboratory is a course that utilizes a biological systems based approach to equip a broad range of students with the knowledge and critical thinking skills required to address questions concerning the maintenance, reproduction, and performance of domestic animals utilized for human benefit.” Students are introduced to a broad range of agricultural animals and the facilities where they are housed. Each week, students complete a different lab on topics that range from health, nutrition, care, housing, anatomy, physiology, reproduction, animal-based products, to handling and management. Labs may take place at animal facilities, in Price Arena, or thStudent collecting a rumen samplee Meat Laboratory. “We try to have the experts in particular areas lead the labs, and I have continued to rely on many of the people that taught these labs in the past. These labs are largely conducted and designed by the experts in that particular area,” said Dr. Ottobre.

The labs offer the opportunity for students to gain exposure to species specific science-based information. Recently, students spent two labs learning about dairy products, physiology, and nutrition from Dr. Maurice Eastridge, Professor, and Dairy Program Specialist, Bonnie Ayars. During the first lab, students were given the opportunity to sample a variety of dairy and dairy substitute products. Mrs. Ayars spent time discussing the impact of milk fat in ice cream. She explained how products closer to the maximum milk fat level of 16% tend to have a richer and creamier texture. She also discussed the economic impact of higher milk fat levels on dairy producers, product manufacturers, and consumers. Students listened to the lecture while enjoying seven different varieties of vanilla ice Taste-testing vanilla ice cream cream with varying levels of milk fat. During the same lab, Dr. Eastridge led samplings of cheese, milk, and their non-dairy counterparts, while discussing the differences in production. He also led labs making butter and demonstrated the scientific processes that go into dairy-product production. The following lab, Dr. Eastridge and Mrs. Ayars led hands-on demonstrations with cows. Mrs. Ayars discussed the economics of growing and maintaining a dairy herd, while demonstrating proper techniques for handling a Jersey calf. Dr. Eastridge discussed the importance of gastro-intestinal health in cattle. Students were able to handle a cow’s preserved stomach and take and observe a rumen sample from a cannulated cow. Dr. Eastridge followed this up with a discussion of proper milking techniques to avoid mastitis. Students were then able to milk a cow and learned infection diagnosis methods and udder medicating techniques on a simulated udder.

For many students, the dairy lab was their favorite of those that they had completed. According to second-year Animal Sciences student Victoria Mollett, from Franklin Furnace, Ohio, “My favorite lab so far is the most recent lab where we got to milk a cow and stick our hand in the rumen.” First-year Animal Sciences student Laina Green, from Massillon, Ohio, agreed,” My favorite lab was probably the dairy animal lab. It was more hands on with the animals than we've ever gotten to do.”

Students examine a preserved cow's stomachThe labs also offer students an early opportunity to gain exposure to a career or species they may be interested in working with further. “I think it is a great opportunity to share with students the science relating to dairy cattle and the opportunities to work in the dairy industry. It opens their eyes to some possible career options,” said Dr. Eastridge. UTA Alyssa Zack agrees, “I think that this course allows students to test the waters of quite a few areas and may help them decide which species they do or don't want to work with in the future.”

Animal Sciences students in the Animal Biosciences, Animal Industries, and Veterinary Technology specializations are required to take the Introductory Animal Sciences courses. Others may use them to fulfill GE requirements. For many, this is their first exposure to the scientific principles and research conducted in Animal Sciences. While the lecture (2200.01) focuses on the theory, the lab (2200.02) focuses on the practice. For many, the lab helps to make the principles and concepts more tangible.

“This class is fun and very hands on. It isn't very by the book, and is based more on things you will use in the future. Common knowledge and life knowledge are often covered depending on your background on farm animals,” said Laina Green.

Dairy Program Specialist Bonnie Ayars demonstrates calf handlingDr. Maurice Eastridge demonstrates the chemical processes of butter making