Posted 25 January
“Winning this award was a real surprise to me - I knew the standard would be high. I put a lot of work into it so it's a great feeling to know that the hard work paid off!"
Catriona Marshall has been named the 2021 winner of The Royal Association of Dairy Farmers (RABDF) Farm Health Management Award.
The second year BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Animal Science student was selected for the title following her submission of a 1,500-word essay on the importance of a proactive approach to farm animal health planning.
Assessed by a panel of judges from RABDF and XLVets, Catriona’s piece on disease prevention secured her win. Catriona was awarded a £500 prize for her success.
“Winning this award was a real surprise to me,” the 19-year-old, from County Londonderry, said. “I knew the standard would be high. I put a lot of work into it so it's a great feeling to know that the hard work paid off!”
Rachel Bowcott, Operations and Project Manager at RABDF commented: “The standard was high and Catriona is a very deserving winner.”
Discussing her winning essay entry, Catriona explained her approach to the brief: “The role of a proactive health plan is to reduce disease outbreaks on-farm, with the view that prevention is better than cure. Healthy animals are going to perform better and it will help to reduce farm costs that can be associated with big disease outbreaks.
“Part of a proactive plan is for farmers to constantly be monitoring their livestock's health such as taking dung samples to check for fluke in sheep. I spoke about how good nutrition is a vital part of these plans in order to keep animals in good health, which is especially the case for pregnant animals.
“An example of part of a proactive health plan is milk recording for dairy cows. This helps farmers to keep on top of any underlying issues within the dairy herd that don't even have any symptoms yet, and they can quickly treat cows with high somatic cell counts to prevent infection ever occurring."
Having come from an ex-dairy farm herself, Catriona’s focus on dairy cows for her essay stemmed from her own experiences as well as the new knowledge she has gained while at Harper Adams.
Catriona shared about her university experience so far, saying: “Harper has a great reputation - it has been the best place for me to expand my knowledge and get new opportunities.
“There is a great range of courses and the opportunity to specialise in whatever subject area you are the most interested in, which isn't an option in most other agricultural universities.
“My highlight so far has been winning the Green Lanes Farming Ltd Scholarship for my placement year.”
Looking to the future, Catriona is keen to gain as much agricultural work experience as possible to gain an all-round understanding of the industry. Largely her current interest is working within ruminant nutrition or genetics. She is also keen to continue to grow her small suckler herd on her home farm, pursuing her love for hands-on farming.
A formal presentation of Catriona’s award will be made at Dairy-Tech when it is possible to host an in-person event.