Coffee in the Barn

2. Farm Experience, Vets in the Industry and Tips after Graduating

February 24, 2022 The Sunswine Group Season 1 Episode 2
Coffee in the Barn
2. Farm Experience, Vets in the Industry and Tips after Graduating
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Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever considered how gaining experience or how the experience you already have can benefit your career? Today technical service veterinarians, Dr. David Nolan and Dr. Sara Hough share with us how having on the farm experience can accelerate your career!

In this episode we will listen to a segment of the webinar ‘’How important is on the farm experience in the role of veterinarians’’ and how Dr Nolan and Dr Hough share their experiences on the farm with our founder, as well as a few tips on what should be your next steps after graduating and looking for a career in the animal science work force.

What You’ll Learn

●     The importance of the Farming Experience

●     The Roll of the Veterinarian in the Farming Indurstry

●     Tips and advices to expand your resume in the Farming Business after graduating

About our Founder:

Casey Bradley PhD is an Experienced Animal Scientist and Nutritionist that has worked with swine, poultry, ruminants, and pets. Specialties include product development, technical writing, and presentations, research, technical sales, mentoring, and networking. Academic training includes nutrition, immunology, and animal wellbeing. She has presented at large conferences in USA, Canada, Greece, and Denmark. Work experience includes farm management, research management, technical service and sales, regulatory, project management, and employee management.

About the Guest:

Dr. Sara Hough, DVM is a swine technical services veterinarian with DSM Nutritional Products.  She joined DSM in August 2019. In her role as regional technical services manager, Hough provides field technical support and assists with research opportunities in swine health and nutrition.

Prior to joining DSM, Hough spent eight years as a swine production veterinarian at Prestage Farms, the fifth largest pork producer in the United States, where she was responsible for the health and welfare of the pigs in the Prestage system. 

Dr. Hough has professional memberships with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association and American Veterinary Medical Association. She also served on the National Pork Board Swine Health Committee for four years.


Dr. David Nolan has spent his life in swine production and medicine. After raising pigs on a farrow-to-finish operation for over 10 years he completed veterinary school at Kansas State University. Dr. Nolan then worked for an integrated pork system for 2 decades managing health, nutrition, milling, R&D, and marketing. Dr. Nolan joined Huvepharma as Senior Veterinarian in 2013 and continues to serve producers and veterinarians in his current position.

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One of the topics I kind of wanted to touch base with because I knew both of you had a lot of on-farm experience and you've transitioned into more technical worlds, so depending on what level of student we have here, we can have some undergraduates. I liked the comment David that you made ‘’Let me show you how I can do that. I probably have more experience than you do’’. Because that's a memory I had from my undergraduate when the vet professors came out from vet school on the farm and realized maybe that's not the right approach I wanted to take and maybe they don't understand animals was as much as I thought they did.


In a production animal role, you can sit in an office, right and look at numbers and try to evaluate performance and make up these elaborate protocols for anything, vaccination protocols or whatever and then, but you got to go on the farm and see how applicable that really is. You know, there's only so many hours a day, labor in the ag industry is really tight. And people understand the why of what they're doing. And going on farms, touching, failing, seeing what others are seeing and kind of experiencing what's doable, what you can or can't actually implement on the farm, I think is really critical in my previous role, and in addition to the role I'm in now, having that farm connection and knowing how things that go on day to day, week to week. Expectations has proven to be really helpful in a technical service position because you've been there to where your clients have been and you can help them sort through situations.


Yeah, Dr. Huff's comments. I totally agree. Kind of the takeaway I have in working with producers and again, that's really what drew me to each of my jobs. I love working with the people who actually work with the pig. And because I guess I see there's maybe some I can't think of the right word, but there's a little bit of Deja vu in there. Because I used to be, you know, I was the person that was that was doing the pigs I actually, you're working with them every day processing tests or etcetera. I love that work. And doesn't matter what type of role you move into, there's never a job that's, quote unquote, beneath you. There's never an insignificant job, whether its guy doing the power washing or that's where the rubber hits the road, that's where things happen. And the fact that I had the opportunity to do that it's just really helped me I think, in my entire career, and no matter what role I'm in, even when I was talking about being a business analyst, spent most of my time in an office, but yet relating back to the person actually doing the work, what is possible what isn't possible, what are some of the hang ups, what are some of the irritations. We had a farm and all employees all day there were Cargill employees on the farm and all employees were required to do a to take a survey and the pig farm. the employee working conditions scored extremely low. And a lot of the managers rhetoric sitting around the table said ‘’Well, of course it did. It's a pig farm’’. It's like, no, that's not the right attitude. We went to the farm and we asked employees, you know, what could improve the working conditions ended up being something so simple, though. The lighting in the barns was dim and they felt like they were in a cave all day long. And we went in and put in new lights and the difference that made and just how the employees felt about coming to work. And doing their job, made a huge difference. I mentioned another system I worked with, as a service veterinarian to work with the cartilage system, group of veterinarians out of Illinois. And I know, as part of their training program for a lot of the new veterinarians, they're bringing on they're actually having those veterinarians first year out of veterinary school, work in it, spend their entire first year working in farms doing everything that the farm employees do, because they see the value in that as far as just being able to develop new talent and you always relied back you always, you always think back to when you used to do that job and what things went well and what the irritations were.


I would have to agree on all that. And I tell people I would love to go back to power Washington some days versus the job we do.


Dr. Nolan, we've got one question. When you're looking for a position on a farm to get experience. Would you recommend a large facility or a small facility?


I would recommend a facility. Now obviously I've worked on bold and unique differences to both but the processes are the same. You power washing both facilities, you process two simple facilities. For small facility might have some advantages in that you get a broader exposure, meaning to all different departments and all you know the entire process. And that's one thing I love to be able to do, it's just my personality. I want to understand how what I do affects others. And so, our how what one role does affects others. Oftentimes, we call them intended consequences. I want this job, you know, this role to do this to improve productivity or it might improve productivity and their section but not improve it for other individuals or the next link in the chain. If you have limited time, or the small facility, if you are going to for experience and you can convince your manager to move you around, the large facility wouldn't be just fine as well.


And Sarah since you were a production veterinarian for good eight years, can you tell us a bit more about the transition you had now that you're doing technical services for DSM? How's that been for you?


My day to day is definitely a lot different. I try to make plans and work through you know, big system situations, but there was also some firefighting day to day sick pigs here situation here. And I missed that quite a bit. But now I'm more in control of my schedule. And I do get the phone calls from other veterinarians, requesting assistance with XYZ, but I guess I don't, I'm not directly responsible for that situation. So, it's a little different. It's more of a long-term strategy and working with some clients versus some of those short-term instant gratification moments that maybe I received being a production veterinarian and I've like I mentioned, I have a lot to learn. I still did, of course still do. I mean, it's continual, education throughout your career in veterinary medicine, but with this role, trying to learn the lingo and talk to some of our clients and nutritionists about things that they're seeing. It's definitely been a steep learning curve. I was kind of hopeful and a year-end I feel a little more comfortable with some of these conversations. It's definitely taking longer than that. Just kind of a different day to day and different perspective than I had before.

How are you managing with the work life balance? How are you transitioning with that? Like with continuing education, and then the change of pace and what you do?

Great question so and Dr. Nolan talked about work life balance and definitely having children you know, change my perspective completely on that and, and taking this role did allow us to move into a different school district, which what I initially look for a house when I started my career, my initial job and school district, I didn't care I wanted a house that was close to work, when certain things but schools really weren't on the radar. But now you know, that's something we talk about on a daily basis. Definitely allowed me to move into a different area that supports my kindergartner this year, although virtually, which is not been ideal. It has allowed me to be more available when I'm home and I'm able to assist and run the kids here and there wherever. But it does come with travel. It's a tradeoff I definitely traveled in my previous position and it was more of a directed we need you here we need to do this. And this role, it's two times to arrive or so yeah, it's definitely very different. By now I'm taking courses and so I'm studying and doing stuff while I'm trying to help him with his online schoolwork, like you mentioned, COVID kind of ruin all of my plans. And how this would really play out from home is not working from home alone. And definitely having to prioritize things throughout the day, the week, the month to make sure that I stay on task, he stays on task. We're all kind of doing what we need to be doing but so it's been a challenge in that regard. But so far, so good.





So, let's talk about veterinarians. We did touch on this with farm experience. Obviously, we have two different farm experiences, and Dr. Nolan probably had a little bit more background like I did. I chose Dr. Nolan because I worked with him when he was at cargo. So, we the University of Arkansas and cargo had that experience that we work together so I got to meet Dr. Nolan really got to understand the cargo port system at the time now JBS owns that and then I picked Dr. Huff for that episode because I worked with her at DSM and she came from the prestige system. And the reason why she took a different role was more of a she has similar family commitments and needs that you know, our sons have challenges early on and she needed more time with her family and chose a different role for that to be able to move to a better school district, things like that. But let me talk about working with veterinarians, because there's this misnomer out there that nutritionists and veterinarians don't get along. And I'm going to tell you that may be the case for some people, but it didn't matter it at any point in my career.

My relationship with a veterinarian was very strong. I had one of the best veterinarians ever that I've worked with Dr. Len Holman for instance, right She's a phenomenal veterinarian. And it's so important if you get the production staff, you get the veterinarian, and then your nutritionist or the geneticists, wow, the walls come down, the egos go away it's like we're all working for a common goal and I love David when he said ‘’what size farm should you get a job on?’’ Obviously, Casey worked in a little bitty production show pigs and then she would take 1000s hours, right? That's what I did. And then I went back to university really intensive research and I agree with him, just go get that job! Take the pay cut. Get that experience. Worst case scenario, you end up as a production manager making just as much money as you would as a nutritionist in a food company. Because the problems you face today, nutrition isn't the only thing that's going to solve it, or changing genetic lines, isn't going to solve all of our problems, or selling the right theater or putting a sensor or a camera in the barn. is not going to solve these problems we're having, but until you truly know what it's like to drag out 20 dead cells in a day. Do you truly know what it's like to have a short staff and your employees you know when you're working? You need full and you got one or two? Until you really know what it's like to be in those shoes. You can't make or can't give that make but good advice. Like help them make good decisions because it sounds great when we go to school and all these grand ideas and then all of a sudden, it's not, and Dr. Nolan and Dr. Huff came from it as a veterinarian. I'm coming from it as a nutrition. I get really tired of the academics and the amino acid companies and different people not to pick on him, but talking about precision. Nutrition. And I just have to laugh because there's nothing precise about what we do.

Because the first thing a PhD student wants to do when they come out and formulate diets is for relate to the 1000s like decimal point three decimal points. Well, you ever consider that my milk can only add five pounds of that ingredient? You don't know that until you have experience and we talked about precision and that's what we're trained on. When we go through our education process and you have to realize the world is not precise.

How do you function in there and how do you still get results? Kind of what's your thoughts and takeaways from veterinarians and the conversation between Dr. Nolan and Dr. Huff


I think it's really apparent with the veterinarians or other colleagues. I've worked with or other people in the nutrition world. It's really evident when you have that on the farm experience. I think you gain a level of respect from some people that other people don't get that same respect. If you can't talk to language if you can't relate back to the production system and how things work in the barn and you don't know how to apply something as like an on the farm application, you suggest something that's kind of off the wall and never realistically would work in a barn. But having that base knowledge of on the farm day to day has really gained me a lot of respect in my educational career so far, and I definitely think that will benefit me in my future career.


There's anything about let's leave the group with this is supposed to be funny, so please laugh at this, audience. So, the biggest thing I had getting over people who didn't know anything about swine production, when I would talk about a commercial system, I said, the gestation snake and they're like ‘’what's the gestation snake?’’ What's the flow of yourselves by breed group and week? And the key thing is I said, just keep in mind, it's like a snake. You can call it accordion, whatever you want, but the tail the head always has to bite the tail. And if you can keep that in mind, that is something funny when you think of a terminology but you wouldn't know what I was talking about with a gestation snake, you might think there's a snake in the gestation barn and so that's just a cute thing analogy that I that I learned work in the barns. My head always had to bite the tail of my snake and make sure I kept my groups flowing, right.


I mean, I've even worked in barns and gestation barns and that analogy probably would have helped a lot because you get lost in the flow of the pigs and the destination barn, or at least I did in my experience.


But we could take it to other species. We're talking about things here. But you know, working with show dogs, for instance, in understanding what I wanted to do in my career, working with a show dog after Red Dog versus what I have in my house, I have months we adopt strays and things like that. You have different nutritional requirements, you have different disease, genetic disorders that come with purebred dogs. I got that experience of understanding that realm of high-end dog food, high end dogs, what people pay for it, how I treat them differently than a shelter dog. For instance. Let's take cattle. I got some great experiences running trials and at missing moments, believe it or not, I did some ruminant nutrition work in my undergrad and I my main job was to do a whole bunch of grinding and poop grass and ruin samples. And then do Bob colorimetry so that was my main jobs. We had a sample rumen once and I did some power washing and I'm like ‘’This is what life is a ruminant nutritional world. That's not me’’ but what's so funny is I go run this heifer trial, right? Oh my gosh, I'm like go I love these heifers are just like big dogs. And they're just like myself, they have personalities and they're fun. And I'm going ‘’if I would have had the experience working on a heifer trial in my undergrad, I guarantee you I wouldn't be a pig nutritionist today’’. Working on a calf trial and those types of studies and those types of animals or that farm experience. I would have probably been a ruminant nutritionist doing heifer development work because obviously there was myself then again it calms back. My other animal experience that I talked about, I got to do broiler and layer research. They didn't have a poultry nutritionist when I started, they're like get this started for me, Casey. Oh, wow. Like I learned so much about the lair industry and open housing. And I had some exposure to birds in my undergrad. But I guarantee you my dad who always just had pretty much pigs on this farm, it's been over 10 years now since I work there and he still has layers on his farm and I got my dad into only layers. And my mom and dad both love the chickens and I would say I do miss them. I don't have chickens here because of Tyson being in Springdale, in our laws and my role, I don't want to be that person that brings avian influenza into the community. So, we don't have chickens, but I really found some of those experiences I had throughout my career with different animals was there's a lot to learn from the dairy world. There's a lot to learn from the layer world and into the soured world. We don't talk across those silos a lot. And there's so much things that happen in each industry, that I gained valuable insights through those different experiences saying yes, I'll do it. I'll do it. I don't have time. But yes, yes, please give me the experience. And it's changed my career and my understanding and my way of thinking even in my area of expertise with pigs. What are your thoughts in the future on different experiences? So obviously, there's kind of a couple series here on experiences. This one, we're talking about farm experience. But I'm saying just because you're going to school to be a swine nutritionist or a ruminant nutritionist, speak up and go help your fellow graduate students on their trials. So, you're gonna learn about what they're doing, because you may find a new passion. Or you may say, ‘’Oh, wow, we need to do that in pigs or we need to do that in cattle’’ things like that. So, we took it from a bed standpoint, I'm flipping and we're talking about the nutrition standpoint here.


Yeah, so I've had a little bit of exposure to other species. My grandpa raises seedstock cattle. And growing up every summer we go spend a few weeks my grandparents, gained that experience. My grandpa always says I never thought you'd be a pig farmer Marissa. He's kind of disappointed in the fact I didn't pursue the cattle route and decided to go with pigs. But having that experience and just kind of understanding how the whole industry works just a little bit, I think can translate over to my career and swine nutrition. My grandpa always complains about how veterinarians don't know everything about nutrition as he tries to ask his veterinary nutrition questions and then asks me his nutrition questions for his cattle when I'm a monogastric nutritionist. However, it was a good learning experience for me to try to take the knowledge that I have of swine nutrition applicate some of the knowledge that I've learned in classes and like protein energy, and try to help him solve some of the issues he was having, and I think it was a great way to kind of relate my training, some of my experiences on the farm and bring it all together to try to problem solve.


Well, you know, pigs are just backwards cows. And I think it's funny Dr. Board wrote a paper when they first started that the first program because Zinpro did a lot of lameness work in cows. And then obviously my PhD work was a start on their work and sounds and he wrote a paper title. If cows were sounds or something like that I'm making it wrong. So Dr. Board, I apologize. But that title and his reference and how he wrote that paper really resonated to say, from that on that farm experience from even talking to your veterinarian, even as a nutritionist or geneticist, you making their life easier or he making it more difficult, and the same as a production staff. I feel on the farm experience will help you so much in your career, even if it's just learning the lingo. Some of these grad students I think, have been pampered a little too much and they need to know how hard the jobs really are before they ask their employees and their staff on these farms to do more. With the limited resources they have this episode on farm experience and hearing it from a veterinarian, you need to go back and listen to the entire webinar with these two incredible veterinarians, but I hope it struck a chord. I hope if you're struggling to get a job or you're struggling to know what to do it you know you lacked that experience. Even if it's farm experience or experience in something else, and you have to Eve in your in your career and you have to take a deep emotion to get that experience. It's going to pay off in the long run. Remember, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. And so hopefully you're in it for the long run.