I would like to thank all members of the Targeting Excellence group who have selflessly put the work in for the aspiring generation of animal scientists. It is a great honor to be named a recipient of this award and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to give back to those who will continue grow the global agriculture industry.
My involvement in animal agriculture was initiated when I entered the 4th grade and became eligible to raise show pigs through 4-H programs for my county fair. I cultivated this passion through all nine years of my involvement in 4-H and took a keen interest in providing optimal nutrition for my pigs to maximize their appearance in the show ring. I merged this 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, I had never been heavily involved with dairy cattle before but, given the number of Holstein cows in Upstate New York, I identified the opportunity and engaged with the Cornell Dairy Fellowship. Through this program, I integrated my learning in agribusiness, applied research, and financial planning to consult dairy farms throughout the Northeast on changes they could make to improve farm performance based on their specific goals. Given all the opportunities I found within the dairy industry, I took the next step to a master’s program in dairy cattle nutrition. My master’s research has allowed me to specify my focus onto the transition period of the dairy cattle lactation, which includes the few weeks before and after calving. Through ultrasound measurements, blood samples, and tissue biopsies, we hope to answer the question of why cattle use nutrients for milk production from their body tissue vs. feed in the early parts of lactation. This research will potentially help producers more accurately feed their herds and prevent wasteful overfeeding of key nutrients and improvement of animal health. Given my origins in animal agriculture, I never believed I could use my 4-H show project as a research tool to impact large-scale farm decision-making. My plans after I complete my Masters degree are to pursue a PhD in the field of dairy cattle forage quality, digestibility, and sustainability. The main ingredient of dairy cattle diets across the spectrum are grasses, legumes, and other forage sources. This was extremely apparent to me during my time engaging in international agriculture from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to the Central region of Ghana. In each regional food system, forages made up a large portion of the animal’s diet and farmers were often unable to provide their animals other feed sources as they were either inaccessible or too expensive. In conversations I have had with professionals in the livestock development community, I have repeatedly heard that while livestock genetics have improved around the world, there is presently a gap to feed the improved genetic potential of our planet’s livestock. Incorporation of greater amounts of readily digestible food processing byproducts or forage sources in diets would allow livestock to reach their production capability. Thus, I look to take my training in livestock nutrition to understand fiber digestion, combine it with my international exposure and on-farm business decision-making to improve farm operations on a global scale and nourish populations for generations to come.