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Welcome to Animal Sciences


Spring of my sophomore year at VT I began one of the first courses for my major: the Introduction to Animal and Poultry Sciences course & lab. This course is designed to discuss basic principles and terms involved with animal husbandry of beef cattle, swine, sheep, poultry, and horses.

The terminology was the area I felt most disadvantaged. Who knew there were 4 genders, and none of the 4 includes “male” and “female”? Of course I had heard of pigs. They were pink with curly tails and adorable smushed up snouts. They said “oink”. You could have boy and girl pigs. It was simple, right? Wrong. Pigs are the young ones, and there are no “piglets”, except in Winnie the Pooh. Hogs are adults. “Swine” encompasses the entire species.  Sows are the sexually mature females, usually mothers. Boars were the sexually mature males. Gilts were young females, and barrows were castrated males (G for girl, B for boy is how I remembered it). Each species of animal has their own set of 4 gender descriptions. I might have heard the word boar before, and been able to tell you it was the male, but I certainly wasn’t going to tell you if it had testicles or not…it wasn’t my business to look! Compared to the farm kids, my head was spinning just trying to keep them all straight, let alone how the feed rations and weight goals were different for each group.

I also had no clue about what the animals are fed. Straw right? Anything in a big round bale or a small square bale was the interchangable: Straw = hay. “Hay is for horses”, so then was straw. It all was the stuff you could put in your scarecrows, long pieces of dried up grass…or something like that. Man, did I get laughed at for that idea. Straw wasn’t really edible, it was a source of bedding. Feeding straw would be like feeding a hamster wood shavings.

And I thought the Southern accents were the language barrier.