Animal Welfare

Understanding and promoting animal welfare is an essential part of achieving sustainability in food animal production. To this end, the basic and applied research questions conducted by graduate students in the Animal Welfare program follow these broad themes:

  1. Understanding the needs of farmed animals from a biological, species- and life-stage-appropriate perspective: what behaviors are important for them to be able to express and what resources do they need?
  2. Improving the fit between farmed animals and their environments: how do housing, management, and handling decisions affect behavior, physiology, and production?
  3. How do we evaluate animal welfare effectively in both research and commercial farm settings?

Drs. Sarah Adcock and Jennifer Van Os lead the animal welfare group (Animal Welfare Science @ UW-Madison, AWSUWM, pronounced “awesome”!). The two PIs have independent research programs but share research space (wet lab, computer lab, grad student offices) and weekly group lab meetings.

Dr. Adcock’s research focuses on the welfare implications of painful procedures and diseases in farmed animals. Graduate students will apply biological principles to assess welfare and will gain experience using precision livestock farming technologies to automate collection of behavioral measures.

Dr. Van Os conducts applied research and extension-outreach on the welfare of dairy cattle, particularly focused on identifying low-barrier solutions that can be translated onto dairy farms. Graduate students in her group will primarily conduct applied research on understanding and improving the welfare of dairy cattle from a biological perspective; they will also gain exposure to research on the perceptions of human stakeholders using social-science methods.

Graduate students in the Animal Welfare program can earn their degree through Animal Science or Dairy Science. Students completing the MSc program are qualified to pursue jobs in the dairy and livestock industries, including as animal welfare evaluators or auditors, as regional or county extension educators, or with government agencies (e.g., USDA-NIFA program specialists) and nonprofit organizations. Students completing the PhD program are qualified to pursue careers in research, teaching, and/or extension at academic institutions, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and in private industry.

For more information: Animal Welfare Science @ UW-Madison