25 August 2020
Our alumni leave Harper ready to make a difference with a degree that matters. They go on to have interesting and diverse careers, exploring the agri-food chain and the rural economy to shape the future of those industries as specialists in their fields.
David Howard has experienced this journey for himself, having studied PgC Ruminant Nutrition in 2016 and now using research to reduce environmental impact as Head of Dairy at Wynnstay. David shared why he chose to undertake further study and how it has led him onto his current career.
So why Harper? David explained: “Having completed my undergraduate studies in Ireland, I had already worked in the UK ruminant feed industry for eight years when I considered further study at Harper Adams.
“I was attracted to Harper for many reasons; one of which was the recommendation I received from several colleagues who were themselves past graduates of the University. I had taken on a new role in 2015 as Technical Manager for a large mineral and supplement manufacturer which meant the nature of my work became more business to business and less direct farm. I therefore decided I needed to develop my skill set and gain a deeper technical understanding of Ruminant Nutrition and therefore I applied for the Postgraduate Certificate.”
Of all of his studies, David recalls the most important topics that still remain relevant today. He said: “I found the modules Principles of Ruminant Nutrition and Ration Formulation and Feeding Systems of particular relevance to my role as technical manager in 2016. I had used rationing software for many years but found it very useful to understand in detail how the calculations are made and how the end products of digestion can be predicted from an understanding of the physiology of the rumen. This did enable me to compare different rationing models and indeed in my current role we are evaluating an American model to see if it could be applied in the UK effectively.”
With a further qualification under his belt, David was able to make progression up the career ladder. He commented: “Since completing my certificate, I changed from a technical management role to product management. In my twelve year UK career, I have worked as trainee nutritionist, nutritionist, technical manager, product manager and finally Head of Dairy Services for Wynnstay in April 2020. I believe that each block of experience along the way was invaluable in developing a CV which has brought me to my current role.”
Having been in his new role for a few months now, David shared what his new day to day looks like: “In my current role there is no such thing as a typical day!
“My colleagues and I are ultimately responsible for the success and growth of our dairy business. This will involve implementing our five year strategic plan for dairy up to 2025 by ensuring that we have the correct service and product offering to meet our customers’ needs today and in the future.
“We know that our farmers will come under increasing environmental demands as the UK government seeks to achieve its carbon neutral goal by 2050. As a result, we are looking at the latest research in methane reducing additives as well as our involvement in a Europe wide project seeking to improve nitrogen efficiency in dairy diets.
“Robotic milking is a growing market and we are currently developing a product and service offering for this sector.
“I formulate rations for a number of my own customers – I believe maintaining this practical level of nutrition is key to teaching others.”
With teaching in mind, David offered his advice to others looking to follow in a similar path. He said: “Be prepared to get stuck in at the start of your career no matter what the task – I have delivered more bags of feed and milk replacer in the boot of my car than I care to remember! It may not be what I trained for but it’s what our farmers require on occasion and that is paramount.”
Likewise, David is keen to teach on the job and share his expertise with current Harper students and alumni looking for work in the dairy and, more widely, agricultural sector. He commented: “As a business we are always interested in speaking to graduates or undergraduates about career opportunities. Wynnstay can provide a range of training opportunities to further skills.
“If you have a passion for nutrition and livestock, and are keen to learn, get in touch.”
Harper degrees matter and they help our students to shape the sector in ways that they never could have imagined. To find out more, join us at our open day, October 10, and discover how you could make a difference.