Why Animal Science

“Animal Science is concerned with the science and business of producing domestic livestock species, including but not limited to beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, poultry, sheep, and swine. An animal scientist applies principles of the biological, physical, and social sciences to the problems associated with livestock production and management. Animal Science is also concerned with foods of animal origin: meat, dairy foods, and eggs. The food industry is one of the largest and most important industries in the United States. In addition, animal science is concerned with aspects of companion animals, including their nutrition, care, and welfare.” – From the American Society of Animal Science website

Humans and animals have been inextricably linked even before animal domestication evolved over 11,500 years ago. Animals have played an important role in the provisioning of food, fiber, transportation, work, and companionship, and eventually as models for comparative research. This relationship carries significant social, cultural and moral responsibilities for the care and use of animals. It also mandates a deep understanding of animal biology, including physiology, health, behavior, and genetics, and of animal physical, cognitive and behavioral needs. Equally important is understanding the human-animal interaction and the relationship of humans and animals within the managed ecosystems in which we live. As future projections indicate the rise in consumption of animal proteins, and the challenge we face with sustaining our natural resources, animal scientists have opportunities to engage in integrative systems-based research to answer these future challenges.

The rate of technological innovations in animal agriculture has accelerated in the last 20 years. Technology is revolutionizing animal production, research, and marketing capabilities. Over the last century, advances in animal feeding, breeding, reproduction, and management techniques occurred simultaneously with improvement in other agricultural practices. Alternate feed sources have been identified; estrus synchronizing agents have been discovered; embryo transfer techniques have been developed, and new growth promoting compounds are being tested. Likewise, comparative research utilizing animal models has been an important underpinning of agricultural and medical advances. For example, the animal sciences have made major contributions to knowledge including genetic heritability, genomics, reproduction and fertility, and the gut microbiome. Comparative research is why we are capable of conducting work using domestic animal models that translate to advances in human medicine or the basic biosciences. Molecular geneticists are unraveling the complexities of mammalian genes and the field of biotechnology is maturing. Additionally, research focused on immunology and animal behavior offers new insight into ways of enhancing animal welfare.

Animal Science is an exciting field that has applications to all animals and provides opportunities from production through agribusiness and processing. It can provide a solid foundation for diverse careers and professional schools such as human and veterinary medicine, or graduate school. We believe a degree in Animal Science at Michigan State University prepares you well for your future career path.

Banner photo courtesy of Communications and Brand Strategy.