Dr. Suzanne Millman
Dr. Suzanne Millman serves as a collaborator on a sow lameness project at Iowa State University.
Gaining Trust

When Dr. Suzanne Millman first joined the College of Veterinary Medicine faculty, she didn’t know how commodity groups and consumers in the state would react.

After all, Millman focuses her research, teaching and professional outreach on animal welfare issues.

But in the eight years since she first came to Iowa State, Millman has worked hard to earn the trust of those commodity groups and consumers across Iowa and the globe.

Through her efforts, the college is now recognized as a national and international leader in animal welfare research and has a professional curriculum in animal welfare the envy of other schools.

“I worked hard to build relationships throughout the state,” she said. “To make this program really viable here we had to identify animal welfare questions that interested both producers and consumers.”

And, at least according to her department chair, Millman has succeeded. “Dr. Millman has laid the foundation and established a trajectory to make Iowa State a global leader in animal welfare research,” said Dr. Patrick Halbur, chair of the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine.

Millman, an associate professor in veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine and biomedical sciences, looks at the fundamentals and policies of animal behavior and well-being in production systems for food producing animals.

Since Iowa is a national leader in both swine and poultry production, Millman focuses a majority of her efforts in these areas. She works hand-in-hand with various industry groups as well as consumers to look at the hard questions facing the animal agriculture industry.

Millman’s research spans topics such as looking at ways to assess and mitigate pain, assessment of laying hen well-being in cage free housing systems, lameness and humane euthanasia. Support for these projects has been awarded by both federal and industry research grant programs, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Pork Board.

“There are a lot of demands placed on the animal agriculture industry and these are hard issues,” Millman said.

“I believe these groups now see the value in the research and outreach activities that I do.

“Just because I focus on animal welfare issues doesn’t mean that I want to shut down their businesses. That’s just not the case,” she continued. “My goal is sustainable farming. I want the animal agriculture industry to thrive and I also want to meet the concerns that the consumer has.”

Millman says an appointment to the OIE Animal Welfare Standards Committee focusing on poultry is another indication that her work has been accepted. She was nominated by the USDA and the United Egg Producers to the committee, which is looking to establish a global standard for animal welfare of laying hens. “I believe this shows how far that relationship has grown since I first came here,” she said. Millman is also encouraged by the number of students who are coming into the field – both at Iowa State and throughout the country.

“When I started in animal welfare research, there were just 11 of us doing this across the country,” she said.

“We used to joke that if we were in a bus crash together our discipline would die out.

“Now there are research and teaching jobs advertised specifically to look at animal welfare issues. This area is really blossoming.”