Animal Behavior Specialist Joins Iowa State University Faculty

April 20th, 2005

A new faculty member with expertise in animal behavior has joined the Iowa State University animal science department.

"My interest in the field of animal behavior was sparked when I took an undergraduate course on farm animal welfare," said Anna Johnson. For the past three years, Johnson has been the director of animal welfare for the National Pork Board. She was instrumental in the development of the Swine Welfare Assurance Program, which is designed to help producers objectively benchmark and track welfare on their farms.

Originally from England, Johnson did her undergraduate work at the University of Reading. She earned a master's in applied animal behavior and animal welfare at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a doctorate in animal science at Texas Tech University with a focus on sow and piglet behavior and welfare in both indoor and outdoor systems.

At Iowa State, Johnson will be involved in research, teaching and extension. Maynard Hogberg, animal science department chair, said filling the open animal behavior position was a priority.

"As we develop and evaluate new livestock management systems, it's important for the animal welfare aspect to be included in our research," Hogberg said. "And there is a growing need in the animal industry for people with expertise in animal behavior. Anna Johnson has a strong background in this area and an intense interest in working with students."

"I want to help establish Iowa State University as a place for training students in the field of animal behavior and for the university to be recognized as a center for research excellence within this field," Johnson said. "There is a great need for people with this expertise to help advise the government, industry, humane and commodity groups. There aren't many of us in the United States."

Johnson said she wants to get more students interested in the field. "There are many questions that need to be answered about animal behavior. We need more people trained to help with that research," she said.

Johnson will take over the teaching of an undergraduate course at Iowa State that focuses on livestock behavior and well-being. She'll also continue to co-teach a graduate-level distance education course titled "Topics in Farm Animal Environment, Behavior, Stress and Welfare" which is offered by Texas Tech and the University of Illinois. She hopes to make the course available to Iowa State students by fall.

As for research, Johnson has been invited to join a couple of projects already underway at Iowa State, adding a new element that will look at animal behavior. She's also planning a new project that will study the effect of transportation on pigs, and will develop other research projects in the coming months.

Johnson said animal welfare is no longer an emerging issue. "It's here and it is staying. This position will work closely with many interested parties dealing with this issue, to help write science-based guidelines and to help implement welfare practices throughout the entire production chain," she said. "People are asking more questions about how farm animals are raised, transported and processed. We need to be ready with the answers."

Contacts: 

Anna Johnson, Animal Science, (515) 294-2098, johnsona@iastate.edu
Maynard Hogberg, Animal Science, (515) 294-2160, hogberg@iastate.edu
Susan Thompson, Communications Service, (515) 294-0705, sander@iastate.edu