Q&A with an Animal Nutritionist

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2018

Nikki stands next to a large Grober sign.

Our friends in the USA are celebrating National Dairy Month, in honour of this we wanted to celebrate too by featuring some alumni who work in the dairy industry.

We chatted with Nikki Campbell a 2016 graduate from the Animal Biology program, who works as an Animal Nutritionist with Grober Nutrition. Grober produces milk replacer and milk-based feeds for calves, lambs, kid-goats, foals, piglets, and other zoological species.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Guelph? 

I chose to study at the University of Guelph (U of G) because of their reputation as one of the best schools in the country for studying domestic, zoological and livestock species. When first applying to the U of G I wanted to become a large animal vet, and I knew Guelph was the best choice if I wanted to pursue this dream. Ultimately, this dream evolved and changed as I became more interested in the research and nutrition side of agriculture. My passion for all things animal related was another big factor that influenced my decision. U of G offers a number of courses that peaked my interest on various subjects from animal physiology and behaviour, to nutrition.

What inspired you to work in the dairy industry?

I have always really liked cows, and found them very interesting. During my time as an undergraduate, I was able to take a diverse number of classes that introduced me to various aspects of agriculture. These classes provided me with a great opportunity to explore the different sectors of agriculture and find out what I was really interested in. I was able to visit a number of farms through the lab components of the courses, and this peaked my interest in the dairy industry. After learning about the dairy industry through different courses and being able to go on farm, I soon realized the dairy industry is where my passion lies.

How long have you been involved in the industry?

Through various clubs and jobs, I have been involved in the dairy industry for approximately four years. I first got involved through my job at Sharpe Farm Supplies as a customer service representative. During my time at Sharpe’s I was fortunate that a producer in Fergus offered me a volunteer position where I could learn more about the dairy industry. At this point I had knowledge of working dairy farms through my course work however, I wanted more hands-on experience. In the summer of 2015, I went once a week after work to learn how to milk, and I got a real understanding of a working dairy farm. During my fourth year I joined the Dairy Science Club, and enjoyed going to meetings throughout my fourth and fifth year. The following summer I worked and lived on a dairy farm outside of Guelph. This was a great opportunity, again providing me with practical hands on experience, the ability to ask questions, and the opportunity to learn. This position allowed me to learn a great deal about calf management and the inner workings of a dairy farm. 

What does a typical day in your job look like?

A typical work day is very dynamic, and each day may look a little different. I may be formulating milk replacer, or working in the quality assurance lab. This is where we test all of our finished products and all of our ingredients for nutrient profiles, and quality. This is to consistently update our nutrient specifications, and to ensure only the best quality product is being delivered to our customers. I also review new literature, and compile information on topics of interest for our team. I have the opportunity to go to conferences to increase my knowledge and understanding of various animal nutrition related topics and research. I even get on farm once in a while too!  

How do you think your experience at U of G prepared you for this position?

My time at U of G prepared me in a number of different ways. My classes provided me with the basic knowledge and understanding of both the agriculture industry and animal nutrition, and my lab work gave me practical knowledge of working dairy farms. Participating in campus clubs was a great way to get involved and expand my knowledge on various dairy related topics, and becoming an exec member allowed me to take on extra responsibility, build and diversify my skill set, expand my understanding of other topics, and provided great networking opportunities. Lastly, the friends I made during my time at U of G provided invaluable insight, support and education. Through their learned experiences, they helped to broaden my view point, knowledge, and understanding on various subjects. Together these experiences helped prepare me for a dynamic work position.

What do you like most about working in the dairy industry?

Primarily I like the people in the industry. Growing up in the city, I was not exposed to farming in the same way that some people in the industry are. I have been very fortunate to have great mentors, friends and employers who were willing to take the time to teach me. I also really like the passion of the people and the industry. The dairy industry, and the people within it are very passionate and proud of what they do, and that is a very inspiring thing to be a part of.

What is your favourite dairy product?

Cheese… ice cream…milk… I can’t decide – don’t make me choose!

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