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Leonie Jacobs

Associate Professor, Poultry Welfare
Professional photo of Dr. Leonie Jacobs.
School of Animal Sciences
3120 Litton-Reaves Hall
175 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Dr. Jacobs’ research focuses on the improvement of production animal welfare. Her interests include win-win situations where both animals and people from the industry can profit. Her appointment at VT includes both research and extension work.

  • PhD Veterinary Science, Ghent University, Belgium
  • MSc Animal Science, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
  • MSc Animal Science, Swedish Agricultural University, Sweden

Dr. Jacobs' research encompasses a dual focus.

Focus 1: Avoid suffering and ensure humane treatment

One part of Dr. Jacobs’ program is to ensure that production animals receive humane treatment and experience no avoidable pain or suffering. This work is directly applicable to the animal industry focusing on short-term solutions.

  • A collaborative study (2018-2020) is focused on euthanasia of heavy poultry, evaluating five different methods of euthanasia for broilers, broiler breeders (parent flock) and turkeys.
  • Another study (2019-2022) focuses on piglet pain experience and alleviation during painful management procedures such as castration. This study is first of all, focused on finding practical, short-term solutions to the painful castration procedures. Secondly, an online survey is under development to evaluate industry workers’ ability to identify pain through piglet facial expressions.

Focus 2: Provide production animals a high-quality life; a life worth living

Good animal welfare is not just the avoidance of suffering, it also includes positive experiences and associated emotions, comparable to pleasure or happiness in humans.

  • A current study (2019-2023) focuses on quantifying positive welfare status, with an emphasis on assessing positive emotional state (long-term mood) in broiler chickens. This study aims to identify biomarkers that can indicate an animal’s emotional valence (positive versus negative), that are dose-dependent (higher/lower quantities of the biomarker when the animal is in a more positive emotional state).
  • A new study (2020-2023) is focused on providing pasture-based broiler chickens with their preferred outdoor range, including trees and plants that can provide a second source of income for poultry producers (silvopasture-system).


Dr. Jacobs’ recently co-founded the Poultry Extension Collaborative, focusing on collaborative efforts aimed at the poultry industry, together with faculty from other US universities.

More information can be found here:


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