Animal Science Degree
Animal science is a popular major for those interested in pursuing an animal related career. A degree in animal science involves a variety of courses related to the management of livestock species such as cattle, horses, pigs, goats, and sheep. Many programs also include courses related to companion animal behavior and management and allow students to tailor their studies to some extent to reflect their specific area of interest.
While specific degree requirements may vary from one educational institution to the next, most animal science degree coursework will include some combination of the following classes:
Introduction to Animal Science
The introductory course provides a broad foundation for new students and introduces them to common industry terms, basic management techniques, and important concerns related to animal production. The history and future of the animal science industry are also topics of discussion.
Anatomy & Physiology
Anatomy & Physiology is one of the key foundation courses for animal science students. In this course, students learn the components and functions of the skeletal, circulatory, muscular, digestive, and reproductive systems. The course often includes dissection of specimens, identification of bones, and evaluation of live animals.
Nutrition courses introduce students to topics in digestion and metabolism, gastrointestinal tract anatomy, industry feed regulations, the energy requirements of various species, identification of feedstuffs, and the functions of nutrients.
Ration formulation is a course that exposes students to the challenges of providing nutritionally balanced diets to livestock species. Students are taught how to balance complete diets for a variety of species via calculations done by hand or with the assistance of a computer program. This tends to be a mathematically intensive course. Completion of algebra and nutrition prerequisites may be necessary.
A behavior course may be offered as a general overview detailing the behavior of several species, or it may be broken into more specialized courses such as equine behavior, companion animal behavior, or wildlife behavior. Students will learn how animals relate to others of their species and how they relate to humans.
A course in genetics introduces students to topics in inheritance, selection for desired traits, improvement of animal populations, pedigree, reproduction, and performance. Students may also participate in laboratory work, evaluating samples with microscopes.
Reproductive physiology courses focus on reproductive anatomy, production, and lactation. Many schools offer a general introduction to reproductive physiology course, and after this course is completed, students may pursue species-specific courses. Topics may include anatomy, genetics, dystocia, semen evaluation and collection, and artificial insemination.
Production courses may be offered for a variety of livestock species, depending on what species the college or university has access to. Large land grant universities frequently provide opportunities for students to breed and raise dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, and horses. Topics include breeding, feeding, housing, disease management, selection, and performance testing.
Agricultural marketing courses introduce students to the process of bringing the products of agribusiness to the consumer. Topics may include product grading, commodity marketing, USDA and FDA regulations, quality assurance programs, and marketing plans.
In a livestock evaluation course, students are exposed to USDA breed standards, proper conformation, judging terminology, evaluation and scoring of animals, and oral reasoning to justify their placement of animals in a judging class. Some schools have livestock judging teams for students, and participation is a plus for any animal science student’s resume.
Meat Science or Dairy Science
In meat or dairy science courses, students are exposed to techniques involved in bringing meat or dairy products to market. Students generally participate in hands-on lab work involving processing, packaging, pricing, marketing, and quality control measures.
Biotechnology courses introduce students to the application of molecular genetics and biology in animal production and research. Topics in areas such as ethics and economics are also routinely covered.
Additional coursework in biology, chemistry, mathematics, communications, and technology is often required as part of the “general education” portion of the degree program. Specific requirements vary from one animal science program to the next. The student’s advisor should be able to provide a comprehensive list of all courses that will be required at their first advisory appointment.
There are dozens of possible career paths for those with a degree in Animal Science. Popular options include paths in veterinary medicine, education, animal nutrition, farm management, beef production, dairy production, egg production, poultry production, aquaculture farming, government inspection, agricultural extension, livestock feed sales, and veterinary pharmaceutical sales.