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Animal Welfare Judging Team brings home top honors

December 19, 2013

The CSU Animal Welfare Judging Team traveled to the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, for the annual International Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Competition, and brought back top honors.

CSU's Animal Welfare Judging TeamThe species at the competition this year included dairy cattle as the live team assessment, and mink, donkeys, and turkeys for the individual assessments.

Animal welfare assessments

Animal welfare assessments evaluate an animal's body, affective state, and naturalness. The body is assessed by looking at measures of health, physiological parameters such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood cortisol levels, and production, such as milk production or weight gain. The affective state looks at the animal's behavior to see how well that animal has adapted to its environment. The naturalness assesses how a wild relative of that animal would live, and compares it to the given situation. For example, animals should be able to perform their natural behaviors, such as dust bathing or nesting in laying hens.  Every assessment involves researching the current scientific literature to determine what is best for the animal.

Top honors

In the undergraduate division, Austin Major placed second overall and Kelly Arthur placed third overall in the individual competition, out of a total of 38 undergraduate students.  The CSU Gold Team won the team assessment, and placed first overall, and the CSU Green Team placed third overall out of 8 teams total. The Gold Team members included Kelly Arthur, Leigh Cooper, Meaghan Monahan, Nicole Cummings, and Marianne Ostertag.  The Green Team members included Michelle Crites, Aneliese Gibson, Emily Geeslin, Jade Banks, and Auria Tellechea.  Austin Major competed as an individual.

In the graduate division, Marcy Franks placed third overall, Kaycee Vollmar placed fourth overall, and Brittany Davis placed fifth overall in the individual competition, out of a total of 17 graduate students. The CSU Grad Team placed second overall. The Grad Team members included Crystal Warner, Kaycee Vollmar, Marcy Franks, and Brittany Davis.

Enhancing understanding and awareness

An animal welfare judging competition is designed to be an educational tool for enhancing understanding and awareness of welfare issues affecting animals used for human purposes. The contest teaches ethical reasoning, encourages objective assessment of animal welfare on the basis of scientific theory and data, promotes critical thinking, and improves communication skills. Students interested in animal welfare are afforded a structured opportunity to practice their assessment skills and present their findings to an expert panel of scientists and veterinarians in a logical and persuasive manner.

This year was the 13th annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest, hosted by the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. There were 20 total teams representing 10 universities around the world. There were 8 undergraduate teams, 8 veterinary teams, and 4 graduate teams, with about 100 students total. 

'Most rewarding'

"This is my seventh year being involved in this competition, and was the most rewarding one yet," said Chelsey Shivley, the team's coach and a graduate student in the Department of Animal Sciences. "Having transitioned from a student competitor to a coach, it has been a great experience to share my knowledge of animal welfare science with a group of students.  It was a pleasure to work with such a motivated, enthusiastic, and excited group of students. Considering this is only our second year having a team at CSU, and my second year coaching, I would say we were incredibly successful."