Keep your options open

Keep your options open

Oct 9
Sara Tondini, Animal Sciences graduate student

This week the beef cattle nutrition graduate students have been helping with ANSC 100 labs. ANSC 100 is a course all freshmen in Animal Sciences take their first semester on campus. Each week you learn a new area of study from a different professor within the department. You learn about genetics, poultry, reproduction, meat science, companion animals; the list goes on. This class is meant to showcase the numerous opportunities available to these animal-loving students who might not have any idea what other areas of study can be pursued in this field.

When I was a freshman I really had no idea what path I would take, and this class helped me get started. Each week I learned something new but one week, in particular, sparked my interest. During the “nutrition” week we got hands-on experience at the Stock Pavilion. We learned about the compartments of a cow’s stomach and learned about the microbes that allow ruminants to digest things we can’t. We calculated dry matter percentages and got to stick our hands in the fistulated steer. We also learned about all the different types of feeds we as nutritionists work with to formulate livestock rations. Some of these feeds seemed conventional and some we would typically consider to be waste. When you drink orange juice with no pulp, that pulp doesn’t magically disappear. A majority of it would sit in a landfill, but we can actually feed citrus pulp, in small amounts, to cows. All of these interesting facts led to my genuine interest in beef cattle nutrition. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined that in four years I would be teaching one of these sections.

Freshmen filled into the classroom to learn about silage and get a good whiff of butyric acid (the compound that makes spoiled silage smell “like dirty feet” as one student put it), but before they left I made sure to end my section with a personal message: Keep your options open!

I could have very easily gone into ANSC 100 with tunnel vision. “I like cats and dogs and that is what I am most familiar with so I should find a career path where I only work with those animals.” Someone has to work with the cute puppies… I get it, but someone also has to work with the cute slightly larger, smellier cows! In the end, we as animal scientists are in it for the same reasons. We’re concerned for the well-being of animals and humans, and the interaction between the two, whether we use our research to focus on companion animals or to produce food for the world, we’re making a positive and lasting impact.

By keeping your options open, you’re allowing yourself to be shaped by the new and exciting knowledge you encounter each day, which ultimately could lead to a career path you never thought possible.

Students taking notes about silage
ANSC 100 Students learn about the protein and energy components of livestock rations - and that the compound in spoiled silage (butyric acid) really doesn’t smell too great.