Animal and Veterinary Science

Department History

No academic department is more closely intertwined with the history of Cal Poly Pomona than the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences (AVS) which traces its beginning to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The Department played a pivotal role in fulfilling the promise made by the University to W. K. Kellogg to keep Arabian horses, and maintain the tradition of Sunday horse shows that began in 1927. Animal Science became a Department of Animal Husbandry in 1952-53 on the Voorhis Campus (San Dimas) in the School of Agriculture. Then Voorhis unit became the southern campus of Cal Poly San Louis Obispo in 1938. During the early years the animal science lectures (originally three courses: Feeds and Feeding, Introduction in Animal Science, and Elements in Dairying) were offered on the Voorhis Campus, but the laboratory sessions were held on the Kellogg Campus farm in Pomona. Students were expected to transfer to San Luis Obispo to complete the 3rd and 4th year of their curriculum. In 1956 the first classroom building was completed on the Kellogg Campus and from that time all animal science courses were taught on the Kellogg campus. The graduate program for an MS in Agriculture, with a specialization in Animal Science was approved in 1975, and the first MS degree was awarded in Meats (1976). For many years the mainstay animal science courses were in equine, ruminant (cattle/sheep), swine and poultry areas. The department’s name was changed to Animal and Veterinary Sciences (AVS) in the 1991-1992 academic year.

Geographically, the department is unique in that it offers the only four-year undergraduate and graduate programs in Animal Science in Southern California. Furthermore, the department has the only fully accredited four-year Animal Health Science program on the west coast. It is in the middle of an expanding urban area, at the edge of a metropolitan area that is populated by over 15 million people. The department maintains 330 acres of rangeland and 100 acres of irrigated pasture. Livestock includes a breeding herd of Angus and Angus crossbred cattle, flocks of purebred Rambouillet and Suffolk sheep, goats, and a herd of various commercial breeds of swine.

Over the last 60 years, the department has grown from an initial Fall enrollment of 79 to a peak of 809 undergraduate students in 2021. About 24 years ago, the department had only one major, Animal Science. Four options were available under the Animal Science major. Approximately 66% of the majors pursued the Pre-Vet/Graduate School Option, with the remainder distributed among Animal Health Science Option (15%), Equine Science Option (11%), and Animal Industries/Agribusiness Option (8%). From its inception, the program has changed tremendously in terms of options within the major. In 1997, Animal Health Science became a separate major, and was accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Since 2018, Equine Sciences changed into an Equine Studies minor within Animal and Veterinary Sciences Department, whereas Animal Industries/Agribusiness evolved into a separate department (Agribusiness and Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science). The Animal Science major currently has two options: Prevet/Graduate School and Animal Science (general) option. The Animal Science (general) option was introduced in Fall 2018 to provide a high-caliber curriculum for students who do not plan to go to veterinary school. Furthermore, the department no longer has a Poultry Unit and currently does not offer poultry production or processing courses. The Arabian Horse Center (AHC, now W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center) is no longer a unit of the AVS Department; it is now an independent entity that reports to the College of Agriculture Dean and University President.

About 83% of AVS students are in the Animal Science major, whereas, 17% are in the Animal Health Science major. As part of a polytechnic university, it is a clear mandate for the department to develop career-oriented programs to meet the needs of its students and the industry that will employ them. The makeup of the student body and the new industries of Southern California ordain the uniqueness of the AVS curriculum and distinguish it from typical animal agriculture programs in northern California and the United States.

The department offers a curriculum that introduces students to major courses in the Animal and Veterinary Science and Animal Health Science disciplines during their first year of studies. The curriculum enables students to graduate with core knowledge and skills associated with the biology of animals and their management, and advanced knowledge and skills gained in the student's area of interest, either in the Animal Sciences major (Pre-Vet/Graduate School or general Animal Science options), or Animal Health Sciences major. Where possible, courses include a laboratory section to ensure that students gain relevant Cal Poly "hands-on" experiences working with animals or in the laboratory. The courses that are offered continue to change in response to industry demands and available faculty expertise.

Importantly, our instruction moved from Quarters to Semesters in Fall 2018. Concurrent changes in technology have gradually increased use of online instruction via Blackboard, and now the Canvas Learning Management Systems. In Spring 2020, all instruction was forcibly migrated to online/remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dissemination of instruction has also moved from projectors and slide presentations to PowerPoint presentations supported by online platforms such as Blackboard, Canvas and Zoom. We now have smart classrooms that are equipped with high technology, and access to internet.

About 20 years ago, the department had 12 faculty (albeit with much fewer student numbers than we currently have); seven had full-year (12 month) appointments, and four had academic year (10-month) appointments, and some had assigned time (e.g., program coordinators and outreach). Currently, the department faculty consists of 8 professors, whose responsibilities are divided among administration (chair), teaching, and advising, and are all on academic year appointments since 2009, and some have assigned time (chair, coordinators, etc.).

AVS Department has been an impacted program since about 2009. “Impaction” means that the department has reached its enrollment capacity for instructional resources and physical support, and cannot accommodate all the eligible undergraduate applications it receives. Enrollment of well-qualified students reflects the quality and strength of our Animal Science and Animal Health Science programs. The AVS Department has the largest number of majors in the College of Agriculture. Of the 2,183 undergraduate students in the College, 809 students (37.06%) are majors of the AVS Department (82.69% Animal Science, and 17.31% Animal Health Science). The remainder of the students are in Nutrition and Food Science (533; 24.41%), Agricultural Marketing and Merchandising (394; 18.05%), Agribusiness and Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science (315; 14.43%), and Crop Science (132; 5.05%). During the last 5 years, the Department has demonstrated increased growth and strong student demand compared to other departments in the college. In terms of university-wide headcount (number of undergraduate student majors; 26,973), the AVS Department ranks 11th, surpassed in increasing order of enrollment only by Sociology (835), Computer Information Systems (865), Finance/Real Estate & Law (868), Management and & Human Resources (912), Biology (969), Marketing Management (997), Computer Science (1,150), Civil Engineering (1,177), Psychology (1,253), and Mechanical Engineering (1,386) majors.