Crossing the divide between academic research and practical application of ethology and animal behavior information on commercial livestock and poultry farms

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Abstract

There are young managers in commercial animal agriculture in the United States, United Kingdom, Asia, and other countries, who are unaware of the scientific field of animal ethology. They may have an agricultural degree with no training in animal behavior. Some have no idea that scientists have already conducted many research studies on animal behavior. In this opinion paper, the author discusses ways to cross this divide. Basic animal behavior principles should be taught to both veterinary and animal science undergraduate students. The basic information that should be taught to undergraduates is: 1) Behavioral principles of livestock handling, 2) importance of good stockmanship to improve animal productivity, 3) principles of animal learning, 4) bull, ram and boar safety, 5) the importance of behavioral needs and environmental enrichment, 6) how to recognize abnormal behaviors, and 7) formation of dominance hierarchies. This material should be in introductory courses with practical explanations about why it is important. For example, a nutritionist needs to understand how dominance behavior may reduce access to feed. When I communicate directly with students, they are eager to learn about behavior. Students should also be taught to use the major academic databases. The second step is that researchers must communicate with producers in jargon-free language. The third step is training graduate students for management jobs on farms or research careers in industry. In the developed countries, there is a shortage of academic positions for new Ph.D.’s. Graduates in animal behavior subjects can have excellent careers outside of academia. Training in animal behavior may help them influence the policies of their employers to improve animal welfare. There are also factors in the future that may block free flow of scientific information. Unfortunately, some research results remain proprietary commercial industry information and they are not published in the scientific literature. To promote the spread of knowledge, academic researchers should avoid signing long-term non-disclosure agreements with industry. These agreements may block scientific publication. Everybody in the field of animal behavior needs to communicate outside their field and explain why behavior is important.

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APA

Grandin, T. (2019, September 1). Crossing the divide between academic research and practical application of ethology and animal behavior information on commercial livestock and poultry farms. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Elsevier B.V. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2019.06.009

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