Forensic Aspects of Agricultural Animal Welfare

VME 6572


This case-based course is designed to provide the student with the tools to assess legal cases involving livestock species. Different species have varying care requirements depending on their geographic location and season. State and Federal laws often have an impact on relocating seized victims. Working within the confines of welfare law, regulatory agencies and accepted agricultural practices offers a unique challenge often not present in companion animal situations. The final project involves an assessment of multiple livestock species and generating a report suitable for the legal community and submission to the prosecutor or law enforcement.


Module Topic
Week 1 Assessing agricultural animal welfare

  • Individual vs Herd Health (population) approaches
  • Differences between livestock and companion animal seizures
  • Variation in regional agricultural practices and resources and accessing accurate information
  • Federal, State and Local laws. Federal programs.
Week 2 Housing and nutrition

  • Feeds, feeding and feed delivery systems
  • Water
  • Housing, bedding, ventilation, and climate control
  • Predators, parasites, biosecurity
Week 3 Beef cattle

  • Beef cow/calf, calf conditioning, painful interventions
  • Finishing steers
  • Body condition scores
  • Common diseases, reportable diseases
  • Housing, bunk space
  • Handling
  • Welfare assessment
Week 4 Dairy cattle

  • Production cycle related to BCS
  • Lameness causes and prevention
  • Nutrition and housing
  • Welfare assessments including handling, mastitis, cleanliness
Week 5 Laying hens

  • Breeds and suggestions for descriptions
  • Housing systems (ventilation, litter, stocking density)
  • Nutrition
  • Diseases, public health, reportable diseases, culling
  • Welfare assessment
Week 6 Broilers, Turkeys, Waterfowl

  • Breeds
  • Housing, ventilation, substrate, feed and water delivery systems
  • Assessing flock health, expected losses
  • Diseases, reportable diseases, lameness scoring
  • Biosecurity
Week 7 Swine

  • Housing systems, flooring, bedding, feeding systems, water delivery, climate control, ventilation
  • Diseases, reportable diseases
  • Assessing welfare including BCS, stocking density, lameness, nutrition, handling, biosecurity, standard agricultural practices
  • Feral hog problem
Week 8 Sheep

  • Breeds, use, management systems
  • Housing systems, predator control, parasite control, handling
  • Common and reportable diseases, Federal Scrapie Program
  • Assessing welfare, BCS, lameness, cleanliness and overall health
Week 9 & 10 Equine

  • Breeds and uses
  • Housing, ventilation, bedding, fencing
  • Nutrition
  • Common and reportable diseases, parasite control, injury
  • Handling and restraint
Week 11 Goats

  • Breeds, meat vs dairy
  • Nutrition
  • Housing, ventilation, feed delivery, water delivery,
  • Painful interventions
  • Diseases, parasites, Federal Scrapie Program
Week 12 South American Camelids, captive cervidae

  • Basic husbandry, handling, feeding, shelter
  • Common diseases, reportable diseases, parasites
  • Nutrition
  • Federal laws
  • Herd assessment
Week 13 Lagomorphs

  • Basic husbandry, nutrition, feed and water delivery systems
  • Diseases and parasites
  • Assessing welfare
Week 14 Cockfighting, hog dog, bestiality

  • Cockfighting – housing, cockfighting paraphernalia, wound patterns, evidence collection and documentation
  • Hog dog – wound patterns, documentation
  • Bestiality – species involved, lesions, applicable laws, documentation