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Ag industry’s star shines with support from scholarship

Ag industry’s bright star shines with support from CRV Ambreed scholarship

Massey University Master’s student Vanessa Robinson recently returned from an all-expenses-paid trip to Holland thanks to a scholarship from CRV Ambreed, where she spent time in the company’s head office learning about the AI industry to support her own research into dairy cow reproduction in New Zealand.

At just 21 years of age and hailing from an urban upbringing in Auckland, Robinson said you could describe her as a townie but she is bucking the trend as one of the country’s future agricultural science stars.

She said her interest in an agricultural career comes from the fact that most of her relatives are farmers – and growing up she spent a lot of time on a Taumarunui sheep and beef farm and Taranaki dairy farm. After graduating from Papakura’s Rosehill College she left the Super City to complete a Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences degree at Massey University.

Three years later with her undergraduate studies now completed, Robinson is about to embark on her Master’s degree which will take two years researching cold stress in dairy cattle and its effect on reproduction.

“My career goal is to work in extension in the dairy industry advising farmers on cow reproduction and how they can improve it in their herds. When I saw there was a CRV Ambreed scholarship that included an overseas study trip to get up close and personal with researchers and scientists from the AI industry, I knew it could really help advance my career,” said Robinson.

The company offers two $10,000 scholarships annually in March to one undergraduate biological science student from both Massey and Lincoln Universities. The scholarships include a trip to one of CRV’s international business units of the students’ choice in Czech Republic, Brazil, the USA or Holland, and $3,000 towards to the cost of the students’ tertiary studies.

CRV Ambreed’s genetic development strategist Phil Beatson said in the four years the company has been offering the scholarships, the eight successful recipients have all chosen to visit its Holland-based head office.

Robinson said the highlights of her Holland trip included meeting a CRV scientist who is doing similar research to her own about the effects of colder climates on a bull’s fertility and getting hands on experience on real farms alongside dairy farmers, and AI and embryo transplant technicians.

“In Holland I got to experience a lot of things that you don’t necessarily get to see in New Zealand because of differences in the sizes of our operations and industries, such as commercial embryo collection facilities and technologies, and visiting a large semen sexing lab which only has a very, very small market in New Zealand.”

Robinson said her Master’s research in New Zealand won’t require research trials. She will use data from CRV’s general herd reproductive database and match it to climate data. She said she’ll be working closely with DairyNZ to get some of the information she needs to complete her research.

While there has been some research in America about cold stress on cows in indoor animal housing, she said there is very little research that focuses on the New Zealand climate.

“Farmers have a belief that in our bad winter weather the cows stop cycling and therefore mating stops. But we want to further investigate what is actually happening to the cow’s estrus during that time so that farmers can ensure they don’t miss those critical timeframes during the mating season.”

Beatson said CRV Ambreed is proud to support the industry’s future stars like Robinson.

“We are currently evaluating the next round of applicants now – and our criteria are pretty tight. We get about six applications from each of the universities each year. We’re looking for people who are motivated to develop a career in dairy genetics, with the right attitude and intellect to make a significant future contribution to the dairy industry as a whole,” said Beatson.

To support her studies during term time, Robinson works on one of Massey University’s dairy farms milking cows and undertaking general farm duties, which she said is grassroots practice to complement the experience of her scholarship.

“It was an amazing opportunity to see the technologies, research and science that I can only learn about in New Zealand and would definitely not been able to do so without this scholarship. I’m incredibly grateful to CRV Ambreed and will carry what I learned on my trip with me as I go forward in my career.”


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