Animal Science Missions

Teaching, research, and outreach sum up the missions of most departments in an agriculture- and natural-resources-focused college. They are part of the everyday function of the Department of Animal Science, and occasionally some items stand out.

Students work on a nutrition study with one of the horses at the Horse Teaching and Research Center
Students work on a nutrition study with one of the horses at the Horse Teaching and Research Center

Collaboration Highlighted in New Video

Collaboration is a hallmark of much of the research, outreach, and academics that are part of the Department of Animal Science. A new video explains how some of that collaboration happens at Michigan State University between the Department of Animal Science and the College of Veterinary Medicine.


On the research front, a culmination of faculty teamwork brought about the New Technologies and Large Animal Models in Biomedical Research Conference at the end of March 2016. This symposium provided a venue for attendees to learn about successful research programs that use large animal models, and to explore ideas and to develop collaborations with researchers interested in incorporating these models into their research programs. The symposium was organized by Dr. Keith Latham, Dr. Asgerally Fazleabas and Dr. Almudena Veiga-Lopez on behalf of the Reproductive and Developmental Science Program and was held at the University Club of Michigan State University. Speakers included faculty from MSU and other universities.

Fertility is the focus of new research funding to Dr. James Ireland, who recently was awarded a $1.65 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and United States Department of Agriculture. He will lead the project along with the co-director of the MSU Reproductive and Developmental Science Program, Dr. Keith Latham. The study is intended “to bring a better understanding about fertility treatments in women by studying the effect of hormones on ovulation and reproduction in cows.” Read more about the project in MSU Today, March 2, 2017.

An article and video interview related to this recently awarded research also are available at

Dr. Keith Latham was also highlighted in May in MSU Today and other news outlets with results from his research study that showed gene editing using CRISPR/Cas9 technology can be effective in rhesus monkey embryos. This was the first time such work was demonstrated in the US. Dr. Latham discussed the study in more depth in an interview May 1 with Michael Cohen on 1320 WILS.

A recent MyNorth article, “Can Meat Save the World? Scientist at Lake City Research Center Hopes So,” highlights the beef production and management research of Dr. Jason Rowntree. Dr. Rowntree’s path to his current research focus provides the context for his studies related to forage, climate change, and sustainable production in northern regions.

Animal welfare was recently highlighted in an MSU AgBioResearch 2016 Annual Report article, “Improving genetic selection may hold key to peaceful pig grouping.” A research project by Dr. Janice Siegford and Dr. Juan Pedro Steibel, Dr. Cathy Ernst, Dr. Ron Bates, Dr. Madonna Gemus-Benjamin and Dr. Sarah Ison is considering how genetic selection may affect pigs in housing environments.

Dr. Siegford was also the focus of an article, “The Winding Road,” in the 2017 issue of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ In the Field publication.

Dr. Juan Steibel's research on pig well being recently was highlighted by MSUToday in an article, "New MSU Research to Improve Pig Well-Being Through Breeding." 

Another article of interest in the AgBioResearch 2016 Annual Report reported on the immune tolerance research of Dr. Margaret Petroff, an associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation. Dr. Petroff works with faculty in the Department of Animal Science as part of the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences Program (RDSP). The article is titled “Uncovering the role of the placenta in pregnancy immune tolerance.”

In upcoming newsletters, we will focus on one or two research areas with a short article. Learn more about the Department of Animal Science faculty and their research, outreach, and teaching endeavors anytime by visiting their profiles on the department website faculty pages.


Are you interested in helping young people learn more about animal science, particularly what the “science” part of the term means? You might consider the article “Showcasing the science in ‘animal science’,” by Julie Thelen, Extension Educator in the Department of Animal Science. Youth who have taken part in 4-H and other animal-related projects probably experienced the “science” even if the word never came up. Find the article on the MSU Extension website.

A related article in the series, “Building the science back into 4-H animal science projects,” continues on the premise from the first article. If these articles have peaked your interest, then you might also read Julie’s series on youth animal science, which looks at biochemistry and chemistry, anatomy and physiology, ethology, endocrinology, and virology and bacteriology.

Find the first article on the MSU Extension website, with links to the others at the bottom of the page. All of these articles provide sources of more information that interested youth and parents can explore.

Finally, on the topic of beef, Dr. Dan Buskirk recently discussed beef exports to China in a May 22 WKAR interview.

Youth Extension

The MSU Animal Science Youth Extension programs are going strong! While activities take place throughout the calendar year, Spring and Summer seem to be one of our busiest times with competitive events and summer camps. Thousands of Michigan youth are exposed to Michigan State University Animal Science Programs through their involvement in 4-H programs.  Looking for more information on our current Extension Educators? Look no further.

Students and Recruitment

Animal science is obviously the focus of the undergraduate academic program in the Department of Animal Science, and student recruitment for the undergraduate program is a constant activity, with some times of the year more active than others. One of the unique recruitment activities in the department is Farm Tour Fridays in fall and spring, an idea designed and implemented by Jessica Kiesling, advisor/academic specialist. The tours include many of the Teaching and Research Centers on campus, including beef, dairy, horse, and sheep, as well as the meat lab, and are led in whole or in part by animal science students. This activity allows potential MSU students to see how farms will be a part of their education, including the insight of student tour guides relating how the farms have impacted their academic programs and experience. Parents, not just students, are part of the tours so they, too, can learn about the animal science academic program.

The annual Michigan Dairy Memorial and Scholarship Foundation newsletter for 2016 is now available. The newsletter summarizes the scholarships available and the recipients from the 2015-2016 academic year, as well as other news and honorees. Scholarship deadlines and forms also can be found on the Michigan Dairy Memorial Scholarship webpage, in addition to donor information.

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