McKenzie Shaffer’s art project used ribbons that she had won from showing her horse. Shaffer learned to focus more on the meaning the artist put into the piece of art rather than just looking at the face value.
Photo by Elizabeth Sample

Examples of projects ISU students creates for the animal science 207X class. Instructor Jodi Sterle uses this assignment as a way for students to understand that not all art is fancy and fluffy.
Photo by Elizabeth Sample

Higher resolution and other photos available from Sherry Hoyer


Jodi Sterle, animal science, 515-294-7997,
Liz Sample, Iowa Pork Industry Center,

Sherry Hoyer, Iowa Pork Industry Center, 515-294-4496,


Using Art to Learn about Livestock

AMES, Iowa -- The department of animal science at Iowa State University offers courses about nutrition, breeding and genetics, meat science, and physiology to help students learn about the science of animals. In addition to this curriculum is a class that incorporates livestock with art.


This was exactly what Brittany Menke, junior in dairy science, was looking for.


“Most of my classes are science based, so it was fun to switch it up with the history of art and livestock,” she said.


Jodi Sterle, associate professor of animal science, teaches “Art and Heritage of Livestock,” animal science course 207X. In it she uses art to show the heritage of livestock and the contribution livestock has had on civilization. She hopes students learn to identify and appreciate the role livestock has on society.


The students start the semester by learning about this history beginning many years ago to the time when animals were first domesticated. They even talk about cave paintings, Sterle said. They also discuss changes during warfare, such as when man started riding the horse versus being pulled in a chariot and how weapons had to be modified.


“I think this is one of the guys’ favorite parts,” she said.


The students also enjoy learning about art. Sterle said she knows of three students who received a piece of art for Christmas after asking her for the title of a piece she had shown in class.


The art studied by the class include contemporary and western pieces, art displayed around Iowa State’s campus and art shows. Discussions about the art revolve around interpretation of the pieces and personal reactions.


“The average person spends less than six seconds looking at a piece of art, and I want the students to be able to appreciate it in that time frame,” said Sterle.


Students also get to play the role of an artist, by creating a project that portrays livestock. Sterle said the students get most of the semester to work on their piece. The projects are displayed for one day after Thanksgiving in the Kildee Hall atrium on campus. Students in the class vote for their favorite pieces and the projects that get best of show are featured the following spring in the display case in Kildee.


The students bring in a variety of projects ranging from paintings to horseshoes welded together and from decorated horse collars to wood burned decorative pieces.


McKenzie Shaffer, senior in animal science, said the art show was her favorite part of the class. “I was surprised how creative some of the students were with their projects,” she said.


Her own project used parts of ribbons she had won from years of showing her horse and refashioning them into a bouquet of flowers.


Sterle wants the students to realize that not all art is fancy and fluffy; and also to take into account how many years livestock has been influencing them, often starting with nursery rhymes.


“I want them to understand the feeling that livestock is in art all around them,” she said.




IPIC was established in 1994 as a coordinated effort of the colleges of Agriculture (now Agriculture and Life Sciences) and Veterinary Medicine at ISU. Its mission is to promote efficient pork production technologies in Iowa, maintain Iowa's pork industry leadership and strengthen rural development efforts. IPIC focuses its efforts on programs that are integral and complementary to ISU Extension and Outreach. Through IPIC, Iowa producers receive accurate and timely information to make their operations more efficient and profitable.


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