The impact of an introductory animal handling course on undergraduate students who lack previous livestock handling experience
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A majority of animal science undergraduates have limited livestock handling experience when they come to college. To address this issue, a course based on livestock handling, safety and welfare was implemented in the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University. This study aimed to 1) determine if the course was effective at improving the comfort level of a student while handling livestock and 2) to identify demographic factors that contributed to student performance in the course. The course was delivered as an 8-week, lecture-laboratory format. Each semester, a pre-course survey and pre-course exam were administered during the first class period (N=87). The survey collected self-reported demographic information, prior livestock handling experience, and comfort level by specie. The exam tested the prior knowledge of each student. At the semester conclusion, a post-course survey and post-course exam were given to determine if the course was effective at improving comfort and knowledge levels of each student, respectively (N=75). Students from farm backgrounds outscored urban students by 5.56 ± 2.96% on the pre-course exam (P=0.06). Cumulative grade point average at the time of the course (GPA) had a role in the pre-exam score (P=0.003) while gender, semester, involvement in 4H or FFA, and high school or collegiate judging were not factors in the pre-exam score (P>0.10). Background and student rank did not have an effect on the post-course exam score (P=0.96 and P=0.58, respectively). As expected, GPA was significant when fit as a covariate (P<0.001) in the post-course exam model. Upon course completion, students reported that their comfort level while handling livestock had increased for all livestock species. The largest increases were observed with poultry (37.8 to 66.9%) and dairy (49.3 to 84.3%). Of the 75 students polled, 96% felt that the hands-on approach was beneficial at reinforcing lecture material, and 100% reported that they were more likely to voluntarily interact with livestock inside or outside of the classroom setting after course completion. In conclusion, some demographic attributes play a role in student performance at the beginning of the course, but these factors are no longer significant after completion of the course. In addition, the level of comfort with and knowledge of livestock handling, safety and welfare all improved, which shows that the course was successful at achieving the intended learning outcomes.
|Publication Title||Journal of Animal Science|
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