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Agricultural News

Meet OSU’s New Temple Grandin Professor in Animal Behavior, Well-Being Janeen Salak-Johnson

Mon, 09 Jul 2018 12:35:18 CDT

Meet OSU’s New Temple Grandin Professor in Animal Behavior, Well-Being Janeen Salak-Johnson Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson previously worked for 18 years with the University of Illinois before she joined the Oklahoma State University Animal Science faculty in 2018 as the Temple Grandin Professorship in Animal Behavior and Well-being. Recently, she spoke to pork producers during the Oklahoma Pork Congress about animal welfare as it relates to today’s modern pork production practices, including some of the most recent findings from her extensive research into the short and long-term effects that various sources of stress can have on swine. She talked thoroughly on the subject and her hopes for the future of her professional career at OSU with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.

“It’s an issue that I have a lot of passion for, because I have a problem with trying to tell a producer how to raise pigs just like I would have a problem with if a producer tried to tell me how to do science,” Salak-Johnson said. “But, through our research we found that group housing is not a jigsaw puzzle. And, what I mean by that is all the pieces don’t fit precisely together.”

While, she reiterates that she would never assume to dictate to a producer the correct way in which they should operate, Salak-Johnson says she instead encourages them to choose for themselves the option that in their opinion best fits their own management style and available resources - be it with the use of gestation crates, group housing, etc. - and then consider possible ways in which to improve their operation if and where possible.

Several factors of course play into this decision she says. Things such as the social hierarchy in a swine herd, where the level of aggressiveness in sows can create an environment of increased competition for resources and thereby raises the stress level in hogs. Obviously, a producer would work to try and limit that as much as possible in their operation to help hogs perform their best and be their most productive.

“That is one of the concerns we have about group housing,” she said. “One of the things I’d like to continue to build on (at OSU) is the basic science finding that we have found from all of our studies in the sense of Oklahoma potentially becoming more of a breeding state and not having weaned to finish pigs… you’re going to be shipping pigs to Iowa or other parts of the country and therefore we want to make sure we give that pig the best chance we possibly can.”

This starts with the sow in Salak-Johnson’s opinion, and she says she plans to focus on finding new ways in which to improve what she calls “sow-piglet interaction.” By doing this, she says producers will have healthier, more robust piglets on the ground. Many of the principles associated with that concept, she says, can also be applied and implemented in the beef industry as well. She hopes to bridge that idea over the course of her career at OSU to serve the university’s beef producing stakeholders as well. Overall, though, she says animal well-being is a cornerstone of animal husbandry, but argues that our production system in this country is so evolved that changes to it should only occur if it can demonstrate proven improvements to an animal’s quality of care.

“I do believe that farmers and producers do the right thing and they are providing the best care for these animals,” she said. “But, one of the things I think everybody has to recognize is if we find a better way to do something that improves the wellbeing of the animal then I believe we have to accept it and we need to change. But, I don’t think we should change something that doesn’t improve the wellbeing of the animal just to keep a perceived customer. I never want a producer to be forced to do something that actually negatively impacts their animals.”

Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson obtained her BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Animal Science from Texas Tech University. After earning her PhD in 1994, she was awarded a 3-year NIH Postdoctoral Training Fellowship in Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of Minnesota with an emphasis in areas immunology, virology, and drug addiction, and then was awarded a 1-year NIH-NSRA Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Pain at the University of Minnesota Neurosystems Center within the Departments of Preventive Sciences, Psychiatry and Neuroscience. She joined the Animal Sciences faculty at University of Illinois from 2000-2017 and then joined OSU Animal Science faculty in 2018 as the Temple Grandin Professorship in Animal Behavior and Well-being. She has authored or co-authored over 150 refereed publications, proceedings, technical reports, and abstracts. She has given over 80 presentations in areas of Stress and Animal Health and Disease Susceptibility, Animal Care and Welfare, and Sow Housing and serves on numerous advisory boards as an expert in Animal Care and Well-being and appointed by ASAS to serve as a board of director for AAALAC International.



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