Veterinary schoolsare facing the challenge of increasing animal welfare (AW) training while also attracting future practitioners to livestock medicine. Both objectives may be better achieved through farm visits early in veterinary training. First year veterinary students at the University of Minnesota (n = 103) were surveyed during the Spring 2019 Professional Development II course to document their knowledge, attitudes, and values relative to pigs, AW, and the industry before and after classroom and online lectures and a visit to a farrow-to-wean farm. Quantitative (Kruskal-Wallis, Kendall tau-c and Chi-Square) and qualitative (content analysis) analyses were used to identify shifts in knowledge and attitudes and associations with demographics and use of the AW values of biological functioning, affective state, and natural living. Most students were female (85.4%), from urban/suburban backgrounds (68.9%), and did not wish to work with livestock (66.0%). Knowledge scores (p <.05) and attitudes toward pigs (p = .0152) improved after visiting the farm. Satisfaction with AW on most commercial farms shifted after the farm visit (p = .0003), with those valuing biological functioning becoming more satisfied (p = .0342). In contrast, students who visited the farm when enrichment was provided were more dissatisfied compared to those who toured the farm without enrichment (p = .0490). Those referencing natural living (p = .0047) rated the toured farm as a poorer steward of welfare. Students' AW concerns included behavioral restriction in individual stalls and injury and lameness in group pens. Farm visits are an important tool in veterinary education, but may result in segmentation in student knowledge and attitudes relative to livestock welfare.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded through the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine Educational Leadership Grant. The authors gratefully acknowledge Drs. Cesar Corzo, Matheus Costa, Peter Davies, Maria Pieters, Talita Resende, and Pedro Urriola for their assistance in leading farm visit tours, as well as staff at the UMN Southern Research Outreach Facility.
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- Animal welfare
- Immersive education
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article