Cows, courses and careers: Animal Science Career Quest introduces youth to the many educational and career paths that exist in animal science

Animal Science Career Quest is a joint program of Michigan 4-H and the MSU Department of Animal Science. The event introduced youth ages 12-19 to the many animal science programs available at MSU and where those educational efforts could take them.

Paula Hitzler and Dr. Chris Skelly lead a learning lab about broodmare management and foaling at the HTRC.
Paula Hitzler and Dr. Chris Skelly lead a learning lab about broodmare management and foaling at the HTRC.

From an early age, youth are often asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For many, the answer comes naturally but for others, there is much uncertainty. A new Michigan State University (MSU) Extension program will make the answer a little easier for some, thanks to Animal Science Career Quest.

Held for the first time in 2022, Animal Science Career Quest is a joint program of Michigan 4-H and the MSU Department of Animal Science. Open to youth ages 12-19, the event introduced youth to the many animal science programs available at MSU and where those educational efforts could take them post-graduation. In total, 23 youth and six adults from 18 different Michigan counties took part in the event, which was held on the campus of MSU, March 18-20.

“The idea for Animal Science Career Quest was formed over the last year,” said Melissa Elischer, MSU Extension 4-H dairy educator, who organized the event. “We have so many great facilities and experts in the MSU Animal Science department, it just made sense to host an event on the MSU campus where 4-H youth could better access, experience and explore those resources.”

Youth participants learn about proper injection techniques.  They practice on bananas with colored water to see their success or how to improve.
Youth participants learn about proper injection techniques. They practice on bananas with colored water to see their success or how to improve.

Throughout the three-day event, dozens of Department of Animal Science faculty, staff, alumni, graduate and undergraduate students volunteered their time to teach youth about the animals they study, topics they research, and other possible career choices in the animal science fields. Species covered included beef cattle, companion animals, dairy cattle, horses, poultry, sheep and swine. Topics of study included animal behavior and welfare, animal health, genetics, animal nutrition, animal products and meat science, and animal reproduction. The event also included an alumni career panel where former Department of Animal Science students shared the good, the challenging, and the very real experiences of being an MSU student.   

“We had 60 total volunteers from across the Department of Animal Science and MSU Extension who helped to make Animal Science Career Quest possible,” said Elischer. “It would not have been possible without each of these individuals sharing their expertise, experiences and passion with our youth participants.”

Animal Science Career Quest participants also had the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning labs that allowed them to dig deeper into careers, topics and species of the Animal Science department. These took place at Anthony Hall, as well MSU’s South Campus Animal Farms, including the Horse Teaching and Research Center, Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center, Sheep Teaching and Research Center and Veterinary Research Farm. Sessions included broodmare management and foaling, dairy cattle genetics and selection, livestock judging, dairy cattle judging, equine exercise physiology, animal welfare assessment, milk harvesting, and service and assistance animals.

Dr. Barry Bradford and graduate student Lynn Olthof lead participants though a nutrition activity.
Dr. Barry Bradford and graduate student Lynn Olthof lead participants though a nutrition activity.

“We hope the program left youth excited about the variety of possibilities that exist in the world of animal science,” commented Elischer. “Many young people think the only way to have a career with animals is to be a veterinarian, but there are really so many more options to consider. We hope that this combination of hands-on experience and real-world examples will help ignite their interests in exploring animal science as a career.”

For many of the attendees, Animal Science Career Quest did just that.

“My daughter now has a career goal because of this event,” shared one parent. “The dairy cattle nutrition session was life changing for my her, she learned so much and is now excited to plan for a career in that field!”

Plans are already underway to bring Animal Science Career Quest back in early 2023 with hopes of expanding the program to even more individuals. Learn more about the MSU Department of Animal Science or Michigan 4-H online. To learn more about joining 4-H, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu. 

Did you find this article useful?


You Might Also Be Interested In