Farm animal expert Temple Grandin is headed to UF to tour livestock facilities and discuss autism

Temple Grandin - Photo by Rosalie Winard

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — On Sept. 24, the world’s most famous farm animal behaviorist and autism advocate, Temple Grandin, will be touring the beef and dairy teaching units at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and speaking about autism.

In addition to meeting with animal science and veterinary medicine students, Grandin will give a free public lecture at the Phillips Center at 7 p.m. on “Helping Different Kinds of Minds be Successful.” Tickets can be picked up starting at noon on Sept. 24, with a limit of four per person.

“I think it’s really important to get students to understand animal behavior – they need to notice things like ear position if an animal is becoming fearful,” said Grandin, who is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University. “They feel pain, they feel fear – that is well documented – and we owe these animals a good life, even if they are going to wind up on our dinner plates.”

Grandin gained international fame when an HBO movie, starring Claire Danes, was made about her life. The film earned seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award.

Grandin was born with autism and her mother was advised to place her in an institution at age two when she wasn’t speaking – and didn’t speak until she was 4 years old. Instead, her mother got Grandin speech therapy lessons and intensive teaching. Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt, who lived on a ranch in Arizona, motivated Grandin to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer. Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are now handled in equipment she designed for meat plants.

Grandin was awarded her Ph.D. in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. She has written a number of best-selling books about animal science and also autism awareness.

“Temple Grandin’s work as an author and as a designer of humane livestock facilities can teach our students and our faculty much about the care of beef and dairy cows,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at UF. “Her life as an accomplished academic and activist with autism does better than teach – it inspires. It reminds us that we need everyone’s talents to solve the complex challenges of the modern world.”

Friday, Grandin will tour UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine and then give a talk to vet students and faculty Friday evening.

Carlos Risco, D.V.M., chairman of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of large animal clinical sciences, said a better understanding of animal behavior is fundamental to designing humane, effective livestock handling facilities to promote animal welfare and well-being.

“Temple Grandin’s work has improved overall awareness of these issues, benefiting animals used for food and fiber all over the world,” Risco said. “Our own programs aimed at improving the health and well-being of livestock have benefited directly from her insights. It is a huge privilege to have her in Gainesville and we look forward to exchanging ideas and sharing our work with her.”

Grandin advocates for the autistic community, which she points out is a very wide spectrum of people, ranging from children who need help going to the bathroom at school to students who are “geeky,” but very gifted. She pointed out that Einstein, who didn’t talk until he was 3, and Mozart, who was composing music at 5, would both be labeled autistic today.

“You’ve got people in Silicon Valley with autism,” Grandin said. “You wouldn’t have a cellphone if it weren’t for someone with autism.”

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302,

Sources: Jessalyn Karver Fernandes,

Carlos Risco, 352-294-4320,

Photo Caption: Temple Grandin – Photo by Rosalie Winard



Posted: September 9, 2015

Category: Agriculture, Livestock, UF/IFAS, WORK & LIFE
Tags: Institute Of Food And Agricultural Sciences, Jack Payne, University Of Florida

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