A new faculty member with expertise in animal behavior has joined the Iowa State University animal science department.
"My interest in animal behavior was sparked when I took an undergraduate course on farm animal welfare," says Anna Johnson. For the past three years, Johnson has been the director of animal welfare for the National Pork Board. She was instrumental in developing the Swine Welfare Assurance Program, which is designed to help pork producers objectively benchmark and track their animals' welfare.
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 where she focused on sow and piglet behavior, as well as welfare in indoor and outdoor systems.
At Iowa State, Johnson will be involved in research, teaching and Extension. Maynard Hogberg, animal science department chair, says 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 says. "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 train students in the field of animal behavior and for the university to be recognized as a center for research excellence within this field," Johnson says. "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 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, as well as other research projects in the coming months.
Animal welfare is no longer an emerging issue, says Johnson. "It's here and it is staying. We 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 adds. "People are asking more questions about how farm animals are raised, transported and processed. We need to be ready with the answers."