I am incredibly thankful to be named a Targeting Excellence scholarship recipient. There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in this area of livestock sustainability and am excited for the next steps in my career. I have a few more years to go with my degree and I am thankful for all that Targeting Excellence has provided me over the years. Thank you for your time, dedication, and financial contributions that have helped make this award available and possible for the next generation in agriculture.
My passion for animal agriculture was initiated on my home farm and cultivated over my 9 year 4-H career where I set an acute focus on raising pigs. I found an interest in optimizing my animal’s nutrition to maximize my pigs’ appearance in the show ring. I merged this interest with my favorite courses throughout high school in chemistry and biology and pursued the animal science major at Cornell University. After moving across the country to New York where there are a lot more dairy than swine operations, I kindled a new interest in dairy cattle management. My studies focused in working across disciplines of agribusiness management, applied research, and financial planning to consult dairy farms on ways to improve farm profitability, productivity, and sustainability, based on their specific goals and needs. Given my interest in the technical aspect of the dairy industry, I knew my next step would be a master’s degree in dairy cattle nutrition.
My master’s research focused on the dairy cattle transition period, which includes the few weeks before and after calving. During this period, cows don’t eat enough nutrients for milk production and use nutrients from their own protein and fat tissue to produce milk. However, this is not uniform across cows as there are some who preferentially utilize nutrients from feed and others that utilize nutrients from their own body tissue. Through ultrasound measurements, blood samples, and tissue biopsies, we looked to answer these questions for cows on opposite ends of the spectrum. This research has been widely published in both academic and layman’s publications to get the information out to those who seek to utilize it for animal health and performance.
Given my strong technical background and interest in thinking about the role of dairy farms in food systems, I was motivated to pursue my PhD at the intersection of intensive cattle production and environmental limits. This field continues to be incredibly pertinent to many stakeholders from consumers and producers to industry members and co-ops. Cattle production, unlike other industries, has the possibility to reduce its environmental impact, sequester carbon via the soil, and positively contribute to human nutrition.
I seek to use my degree and career to uncover solutions that can be implemented on farms to improve animal health, climate outcomes, and the way we manage carbon from livestock production. Given the importance of this field, it would be a failure to have my research restricted to the lab or academia alone. Therefore, I have sought to implement this information through written and oral communications to those decision makers that are concerned with nutrition and climate impacts. After I complete my PhD, I seek to pursue an industry role in the sustainability field at either an agriculture company such as Land O’Lakes or a grocery retailer such as Kroger that will implement science-based targets to reduce the environmental impact of dairy production and to continue nourishing those across the country and around the world.