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Students brave elements to collect dissertation data

Posted 20 April 2016

I was outside in all weathers, but I definitely preferred it to doing a research project where I would have spent much more time inside."

Bioveterinary science student Kyra Hamilton

Bioveterinary science student Kyra Hamilton

The word dissertation might normally conjure mental images of students slaving in a library over 10,000 word essays. But for two young women studying at Harper Adams University, dissertation work saw them battle the elements to get close to their animal subjects. 

One is investigating lamb worming treatments and the other has been monitoring activity levels in beef calves – with both projects requiring significant time on farms. 

Kyra Hamilton, 22, is due to graduate with a BSc (Hons) degree in Bioveterinary Science this summer. Her Honours Research Project is ‘Anthelmintic resistance in lambs:  What is it?  Are local farmers aware of it? What are they doing to control/manage it? And how is this reflected in faecal egg count reduction tests (FECRT)?’

Kyra, from Llanrwst, Conwy, said: “I have used questionnaires and physically collected data to analyse for my dissertation. I collected samples from six farms, testing 40 lambs at each. It was relatively easy to find farms to do my research on; the difficult part was not getting lost as I drove to them!

“I was looking at the number of worm eggs in lamb faeces and how effective different treatments were, and variations due to length of time after treatment. Due to not having a Home Office licence, and not having someone with me who did, I had to wait for the lambs to provide a sample naturally, rather than collecting it directly. 

“This led to long waiting periods, sometimes up to three hours. It was really frustrating, especially because the farmers would be there with me and need to be getting onto another task. But I was really grateful that they gave up their time to support my research project. 

“Sometimes, it became even more frustrating because the sheep would excrete and then walk through it, so I wasn’t able to use it as a sample, and I’d have to wait for another! 

“They could also jump higher than I expected. I was using separators which were about 3ft high, and some of the lambs would jump over them and go and join the flock again and I would have to try and find them.

“I was outside in all weathers, but I definitely preferred doing this rather than a research project where I would have spent much more time inside; especially in the library.

“I’ve had friends who owned sheep but my real passion and the opportunity to work with them has come from being at Harper Adams. I chose to work at the farm on campus in the sheep unit in my sandwich year because I am doing bioveterinary science and I wanted to get more practical experience. 

“Next, I hope to continue working with sheep through a funded PhD in sheep research.”

Meanwhile Jodie Hill, 22, from Altrincham, Cheshire, has been working on ‘An assessment of activity monitors to measure behaviour in beef cross calves on different levels of milk replacement’.

She said: “I’m using the IceQube activity monitoring device to monitor the calves and looking into how accurate it is and how to interpret the information it provides.

“I have a real love for cows, so I thought this would be a great project to be involved in. It sounded really interesting, and it was looking at something slightly different because the device had been used on dairy cows before but we wanted to see if it also works with beef calves.

“To collect my data I had to spend a lot of time with the calves, so that I could see how they were behaving. In total I spent 18 hours watching them. 

“It was straight forward at first to monitor them all at the same time because they were all in one place. Then they started getting weaned. Some were moved over to the barn, and I had to move between the two sites quickly when it was time to check-up on them.

“Each calf had an IceQube on one of their legs. It recorded the amount of time the calf spent lying down and standing up each day. I had to get to it to scan to collect the data. Sometimes when they were lying down, I wouldn’t be able to see it and so didn’t know which calf I needed!

“The first day of my study had the worst weather. It was in December and it was wet, windy and cold. I was inside the barn, next to the door, but I still needed so many layers on that I felt like a cocoon.

“During my study, two of the calves stood out to me. Their pens were next to each other and their personalities bounced off each other. If one was drinking, the other would be drinking, if one was sleeping the other was sleeping. If I went to see one, the other would nestle in to gain my attention. Even though I’ve spent so much time around them, I do still love calves.”

Both Kyra and Jodie are now writing up their projects ahead of sitting their final exams. 

‘Making My Mark’ is a collection of dissertations being completed by Harper Adams final year undergraduate students which have an interesting story behind them or are on a subject of public interest. If you have a dissertation you wish to be included, please email press@harper-adams.ac.uk

 

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