Tag Archives: animal science

What is Animal Science?

Imagine. It is Wednesday night and you go with your friends to the nations for a drink. Upon arrival you realise there’s a new face in the group so you introduce yourself. This itself can be already quite challenging, especially if the group is international – you may hear a name you’ve never heard before and seems impossible to pronounce. When I say my name is Rosan the reply will either be “Roxanne?” or “Rose?”, after which I try to explain it’s like ‘Rosa’ but with an additional ‘n’ in the end. Sometimes you also ask each other where you are from but it won’t be long before the topic changes to studies.

“So you are studying to become a vet?”

I guess for some people this is a very easy question to answer. Imagine studying mathematics, history or English language… However, for people studying at SLU it is usually not that straight forward. I guess my programme is not as hard to explain as for example ‘Rural development and natural resource management‘, still sometimes I secretly wish I could just say I studied biology. After mentioning you are studying animal sciences, nine out of ten people will reply: “So you are studying to become a vet?”. No, I am not. I am hoping to graduate as an animal scientist!

“Animal science focusses on animals kept in a human environment – mainly farm animals but occasionally also pets, horses and zoo animals.”

As most people are well aware of what a veterinarian does, I try to use this when explaining animal science. A vet will look at a sick animal and needs to recognise the disease and will try to cure the animal. As an animal scientist you look at an animal kept by people and try to find the best way to do it – how to prevent it from getting sick in the first place. What is the best way to house this animal, what is the optimal feed for it and how do we breed the next generation? Of course the fields of veterinary and animal science have some overlap, but I think this is a fundamental difference. There is also a lot in common with biology, though animal science focusses on animals kept in a human environment – mainly farm animals but occasionally also pets, horses and zoo animals.

Within animal science there are several subdisciplines. Right now the master’s programme at SLU is going through a transition, but by choosing certain courses you can give a kind of ‘profile’ to your degree. At SLU these tracks are divided into the following three main categories:

  • Ethology / Animal Welfare / Animal Environment
  • Nutrition / Production Biology
  • Genetics / Breeding

Back to the storyline of the nation pub. Because sometimes it happens that people are quite interested in what you explained about your studies. They they might ask this most difficult question: “What will you be when you graduate?”. Or in other words; what will you do for a living after you finished studying? The easy answer is saying studying animal science will lead to graduating as an animal scientist. This is not really clarifying though. Animal scientists kind of end up everywhere – you’ll find them working at universities, companies, governments and ngo’s. I absolutely appreciate animal science being such a broad programme with aspects of economics and social science, but when it comes to future jobs it is not very specific. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – you have a lot of opportunities.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love my studies. Though there are days when I stand in the pub wishing I was studying to become a vet and my name was Roxanne. How easy life would be!


The horse-course!

This is really happening. Last week I started my course for the coming half semester, named ‘The biology and use of the Horse’. Even though I doubted a lot beforehand whether I should choose it or not, I am thrilled about it. Because as some of you may know, well, I ‘kind of like’ horses… as in, I guess I am what you call a horse-freak. And that may still be an understatement ๐Ÿ˜‰

The main focus of the study of animal sciences is on farm animals, such as cows, chicken and pigs. These are production animals – responsible for a farmers income – whereas horses and pets are often just kept for hobby. It is the farming sector that provides most jobs related to animal science. Therefore you may doubt how much time you want to spent during your studies on pets, horses and wildlife. It may be fun, but… where will it lead to?

‘Nowadays there are more horses than cows in Sweden’

Well. Think twice. Because nowadays there are actually more horses than cows around in Sweden. Who would have thought?ย  The horse sector is responsible for a yearly turnover of about 5 billion euros.ย The estimated number of horses in Sweden was about 360.000 in 2015. This large amount of horses needs to be provided with many hectares of land for grazing and hay production, which has a large impact on both farming and the landscape. The first lecture of the course stretched the importance of the horse industry and I think it was really interesting to look at it from different perspectives.

So far, one of the things I really like about the course is that we are having several excursions and projects scheduled. Guess I might change my mind about it when the first deadlines approach, haha. In the first week we already went to see some horse business which was both interesting and fun. I will tell you all about it in a next blog post!

If you have any questions, comments or whatsoever, please leave a reply and I will come back to it ๐Ÿ™‚