Q&A with an OAC Alum (Dairy Account Manager)
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 Thomas Scott a 2017 graduate from the Food and Agriculture Business program, who works as a Dairy Account Manager with Masterfeeds. Masterfeeds offers bulk and bag feeds, supplements, blocks and minerals, premixes, organic feeds, ration balancing, in-barn assessments as well as many specialty and backyard animal feeds.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Guelph?
Growing up, I was always immersed in the agricultural industry because my dad grew up on a beef cow operation. When I was younger we were always at the family farm helping out with hay and other activities. In high school, I took a World Food and Poverty course and realized just how big of a challenge feeding this growing population will be. Everyone has to eat, and I want to be part of an industry that helps make that possible.
Because of my passion for agriculture when I was looking for a program to take at university, the Bachelor of Commerce Food and Agricultural Business program really stuck out. After touring the Guelph campus multiple times I knew it was going to be the right fit for me. It is a large, well-known university in Ontario but on campus, you get this small school atmosphere. Coming from a smaller high school this made it an easy transition for me. The last thing that made Guelph the perfect match was the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). Once I arrived and saw how close the upper year students were with each other, I knew that being a part of this College would make school fun and enjoyable. I can’t say that it let me down in that department.
What inspired you to work in the dairy industry?
Going into university I was really open to any agriculture industry, having not come directly from a farm. After taking a few courses I really took an interest in the dairy industry. In fourth year I had the opportunity to help out a dairy herd at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and that really opened my eyes to a different side of the industry.
The dairy industry is very complex with multiple ways to work within it. Not coming from a dairy farm it definitely has been and will continue to be, a long and steep learning curve and that’s what I love about it. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked in the industry you’re always going to learn something new almost every day, which is what really drove me to take a job working in dairy.
How long have you been working or involved in the industry?
I graduated from Guelph in April of 2017 and started working at Masterfeeds in December of 2017. However, I would like to think I’ve been a part of the industry since I started post-secondary school in September 2013. It’s interesting to come into the dairy industry with a sort of outsider mentality. Not being a part of it my whole life, it was very easy for me to see both sides of debates that we would have in class. I haven’t regretted any moment of being in the dairy industry; it’s a great one that I’m glad to be a part of.
How do you think your experience at the University of Guelph prepared you to work in this position?
My position obviously has a lot to do with dairy nutrition but in reality, it’s a people job. You have to be able to connect with farmers and have the ability to have a conversation with them. OAC made me develop great social skills, through group projects, class events and continuous interactions with the tight-knit community. The fact that there are so many opportunities to meet new people and further develop my communication skills helped with a role like mine where that’s what you’re doing most of the time.
Since U of G is such a diverse school you have so many chances to meet new people from a variety of backgrounds. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had at U of G for the world. They developed the person I am today and set me up for success when I graduated and had to enter the working sector.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
A typical day for me would be driving to dairy farms, either prospective or current clients.
For current clients, there’s a range of reasons why I’d be stopping in at their farm. I might be dropping off a new feeding program or stopping in to take samples of their corn silage, bailage, or total mixed ratio. We would send these samples to our lab to get tested on starch levels and other valuable information that allows us to prepare a ration that best fits their needs while ensuring the health of their cows is the top priority.
For prospects, I will drop in to develop a relationship between the farmer and myself. Let them know what’s new at Masterfeeds, and some things that we can offer to help them be successful, whatever that definition may be. Really our end goal is to help them succeed and enjoy going to the barn every day. Other things that I do during the week, for both prospects and current clients, would be manure screenings, weighing calves, and shaker box tests. All of these are a good way to show how well our products are helping their herd. These can also help us find a problem and implement a solution. Every day is different and that’s why I love this job, being able to talk to farmers all the time, and trying to help them as much as I can by offering new ideas and insights.
What do you like most about working in the dairy industry?
The thing I like the most about working in the dairy industry is that farmers are so keen to try new things and do what it takes to improve efficiency. They are always striving to learn more and do better and its fun going along for the ride with them.
Productivity and efficiencies are now at the forefront of each dairy farmer’s decisions. This makes my job very worthwhile because I can attribute to these with the knowledge I provide to producers. Since dairy farms are an extremely complex farm to feed you’re always learning new techniques or ideas every day. The ability to always be learning is great and it keeps the job fun. Dairy farmers are some of the nicest people in the world and I’m glad I get to work with them every day.
What is your favourite dairy product?
My favourite dairy product would have to be ice cream. On a hot day in the summer stopping in at Kawartha Dairy just makes the day even better. If I had to pick a flavour it would probably be Moose Tracks. I think it’s great that companies like Kawartha Dairy are supporting the Canadian Dairy industry. It makes the ice cream taste that much better.