What I did on my work placement
I was lucky enough to go to a dairy farm in New Zealand for my sandwich year. The farm is located just south of Christchurch and is 350 hectares of grassland complete with three pivot irrigators and a big team of workers. As well as milking 1400 cows, all replacement heifers are reared from calves through till their first calving, so there was always lots to be involved with. My work placement was funded by a scholarship set up in memory of Rich Wigram, who died in 2010 after an accident on his farm in New Zealand at the age of 34. It offers young people in the UK the opportunity to experience dairy farming in New Zealand. Farming in New Zealand, where the cows are outside all year round, offers an alternative system to the UK’s (mostly) intensive practice. Right from the beginning of my placement in New Zealand, which was also the start of the winter (June), I was thrown in the deep end with calving beginning just 3 weeks after my arrival, reaching some impressive figures of up to 30 cows calving a day! It was just what I wanted; something that challenged me out of my comfort zone and provided the practical element alongside all my theory based knowledge obtained from Hartpury University over the previous two years of my degree. As well as being involved with the day to day tasks on the farm, I got an insight into the crop and grass management required to meet the nutrient demand of the cows from calving, through mating and into the autumn before drying off. I would recommend a sandwich year to anyone.
As I complete my degree, I will focus heavily on agricultural animals with the ambition of specialising in dairy cow nutrition and/or genetics. I would like to spend a couple of years continuing my research and carrying out projects through a company such as DairyNZ or DairyCO. After that, I would like to be able to work as a feed specialist or analyst with the aim of creating specific yearly guides for farmers.