Hands-on learning in dairy science

January 7, 2021

ANS 235Animal Science 235 is an introduction for students to learn the basic principles and practices on a dairy farm. “Students learn about key disciplines such as nutrition, physiology and genetics, and how they relate to the dairy industry,” said Associate Teaching Professor Christen Burgett. 

Emma Guasta, a sophomore in animal science told us, “When starting AN S 235, I had no experience with dairy cattle. It soon became my favorite class, hands down. Professor Burgett made the lectures entertaining by showing her passion for the industry and throwing in funny jokes. The class sparked my passion for the dairy industry!”

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the class had many opportunities to participate in hands-on learning. They went on a detailed tour of the Iowa State dairy farm and had several opportunities to work with the dairy cattle. Students covered the dairy cattle life cycle from calving and transitioning to heifers and lactating cows. They walked among the calf and lactating cow pens to observe their behavior and compare the disposition between the two age groups.

“Animal Science 235 provides opportunities for students with varying experience in the dairy industry.  I enjoyed going out to the farm during lab and having the chance to walk through each element of the industry from animal health to milk processing and everything in between,” said Shelby Westhoff, a sophomore in animal science.

The class learned about general health assessments which included making observations about the physical appearance (head carriage, ears, eyes, nose, etc.). Students took a cow’s temperature, listened to the heart rate, counted respiration rates and listened for rumen contractions. They also weighed and measured heifers using weight estimation tapes and altitude sticks.

Students also learned how to assess characteristics of dairy cows by practicing body condition scoring, locomotion scoring, hock scoring and cow cleanliness scoring in lactating dairy cows. They also learned about milk quality, overall dairy cattle stockmanship, reproduction and nutrition.

If you are interested in learning more about dairy science, animal science or clubs and activities at Iowa State, check out our upcoming webinar on January 11th for prospective students. https://www.ans.iastate.edu/animal-science-informational-webinar-prospective-students-january-11