2016 Iowa State Fair: Stephanie Hansen - ISU Office of the Vice President for Research

2016 Iowa State Fair: Stephanie Hansen

Stephanie Hansen

Stephanie Hansen, Iowa native, Iowa State University alumna, and associate professor of animal science, is a leading cattle nutrition researcher who works with veterinarians, animal nutritionists, biochemists, and extension personnel to improve the efficiency of beef cattle production.

During childhood days on a small cattle farm in Northwest Iowa, Hansen was surrounded by beef cattle. Involvement in 4-H clubs in her youth helped her solidify her interest in beef cattle, and influenced her decision to attend Iowa State to pursue a career in animal science.

Hansen was an outstanding student as an undergraduate at Iowa State, involved in the University Honors program and eventually graduating with distinction with a bachelor’s of science in animal science.

Toward the end of her undergraduate studies, Hansen says, “I had some great faculty mentors who gently nudged me towards graduate school.”

After earning a master’s and doctoral degree at North Carolina State University, she returned to Iowa State, this time as an assistant professor in Animal Science.

Hansen now runs the Hansen Ruminant Nutrition Lab at Iowa State, where she has been granted over $7 million for her research. Her most recent grant from the USDA is to study the use of zinc to support growth in cattle.

“Beef production conditions are changing all the time,” Hansen says. “We need to constantly update nutrition recommendations as genetic improvements, modern husbandry practices, the use of growth-promoting technologies, and the need to reduce our environmental impact change how we grow cattle.”

Hansen’s research has already had a significant impact on efficient cattle feeding in Iowa. The increase in ethanol production brought an increase in fuel coproducts, or parts of corn left over after producing fuel. Farmers were happy to have a new, inexpensive feed for their cattle, but the high levels of sulfur found in those coproducts can be toxic to animals.

Over the course of five years, Hansen and her team were able to bring together cattle experts from various fields to discover ways to reduce the risk of sulfur toxicity in cattle feeding on ethanol coproducts. The group’s recommendations have brought down feeding prices, while protecting cattle health.

Today, Hansen’s lifelong interest in cattle continues. She says ruminants, or cud-chewing animals like cattle, are amazing creatures that offer much for scientists to study.

“Ruminants are able to capture nutrients from fibrous feeds like biofuel co-products or grass – something we humans can’t do!”

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