SASAS Northern Branch hosts top student industry day

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

A select group of students and 24 industry organisations attended the recent South African Society for Animal Science’s (SASAS) Northern Branch annual student industry day at the Future Africa campus of the University of Pretoria. The day was held on 4 April.

JW van Niekerk, chairperson of SASAS Northern Branch, said the 90 students attending the day were at a pivotal moment in their lives and that the aim of the student industry day was to assist them in making their mark in the industry. “The day is about empowering students with the knowledge, skills and connections needed to thrive in this ever-changing industry.”

Third- and fourth-year students from the University of Pretoria, as well as final-year students from North-West University and the University of Venda, were invited to attend the day. A few postgraduate students who are pursuing a career in animal science were also invited.

Career options showcased

After Van Niekerk welcomed the students, Karla Zietsman, vice chairperson of SASAS Northern Branch, gave an overview of different animal production career options. This included careers in the animal feed industry, such as working for feed manufacturers, premix manufacturers, additive companies, laboratories, and feed mills, going into equipment supplies, joining a tech company, or opting for research and development.

For those interested in physiology and more physical involvement with their work, Zietsman recommended looking into positions at poultry, pig and dairy farms as well as feedlots. Alternatively, a career at an abattoir can also be very satisfying. Students were encouraged to also explore the functions of a technical team manager at an animal health or feed additive company, or look at the possibility of working for a reproduction company.

Further down the manufacturing line, animal production specialists can also become involved in meat processing in respect of slaughtering, carcass grading, the cutting, curing, and smoking of meat as well as packaging. There are also job opportunities for those interested in quality assurance.

But, ultimately, what are the makings of a successful animal scientist? “A scientist should understand the end goal, have a heart for what farmers do, be passionate about agriculture, and be willing to work hard to achieve your goals,” Zietsman said.

Read more about the 2023 edition of the day here.

Industry inspires students

After Van Niekerk and Zietsman set the scene, the following industry members addressed students on their specific industry branches:

August Lingnau, De Heus South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal regional sales manager: Lingnau highlighted the fact that De Heus was sixth biggest animal feed producer in the world and that they remained a family orientated business where the owners still had time to listen to the suggestions of its employees. He also said students needed to understand that there was a growing need for animal scientists globally, as the international demand for animal protein is constantly growing.

David Brandt, managing director of Feed First: Brandt spoke about the important ways in which commercial feed formulations differed from formulations done in an academic environment. Essentially, cost becomes one of the driving forces within a commercial set up. The commercial nutritionist’s focus is to formulate feed from the best materials at the lowest possible cost and price. This is one of the reasons why commercial nutritionists are also great procurement officers.

Suretha van Breda, Trouw Nutrition’s technical and marketing manager: Her talk focussed on pet food formulation. “As the human population grows, the pet population is also growing. Young people are also deciding to either delay having children or not having children at all. In both instances, they decide to have ‘fur babies’ (pets).” This is a major sector, with South Africa’s pet food sector comprising a R9 billion per annum industry. Every year, 40 000 tons of pet food is consumed locally. Van Breda said that when she was a student, she wasn’t aware of this job opportunity and therefore felt privileged to open up the world of pet food formulation to students.

Pholosho Monnapule, broiler production manager at Rainbow Chickens, provided an overview of this integrated poultry manufacturer’s company structure. Poultry remains one of the cheapest protein sources available, and local and international demand for poultry products is continually growing. However, the industry needs scientists to keep it sustainable in years to come. “Genetics is one of the areas students could consider looking into,” Monnapule said. “Currently all genetics (grandparent stock) are being imported. There are definite career opportunities in this field.”

Dr Angela Buys, CEO of Design Biologix, told students they should not be afraid of achieving their dreams. After two honours degrees she realised she didn’t like making the rules – she liked breaking them. That was something vaccine formulation allowed her to do. “In the words of Mohammed Ali: Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given rather than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

Adeline Snowdowne, laboratory technician at DanBred, gave a lecture on the company’s genetic lineage. While the multinational tries to keep breeding relatively simple, they are constantly improving their animals’ abilities. “Our breeding goals are constantly changing.” Last year piglet survival was the focus and, as this has already improved, this year’s focus is sow longevity. Her advice to students was not only to study hard, but to ensure that they gained good experience. “Enthusiasm is important. Have passion and become excited by things. That’s what will keep you valuable. This has helped me enter a world-class facility that I love working for.”

Maruschke Andrews, Molare’s production specialist, said it was important to understand the entire ecosystem in which you are operating. “You can’t simply make a change at the start without knowing what the impact on the end consumer will be. An most important factor is the company’s profitability.”

A passionate conclusion

Many animal science students initially start studying in this field because they want to become veterinarians but are never selected for that field. Hence they might feel ‘stuck’ and without direction once their studies end. The day’s keynote speaker, international rugby coach Matt Proudfoot, admitted that he was in a similar boat when he completed his degree in sport science. “I think a lot of you have that question in your head: What now?”

Proudfoot said it is important for students to know who they are, rather than what they will do or have done. “I’m a father of a beautiful daughter and my biggest passion is shark conservation, specifically having plastic removed from the ocean. My second biggest passion is people and making them curious about themselves.”

Proudfoot said what a person did (to earn an income) was not as important, as it is part of one’s life for a short period, whereas the person him- or herself remained important for their entire lifetime. He encouraged students to embrace opportunities that cross their paths. By seizing opportunities that crossed his path, Proudfoot was able to enjoy incredible life experiences.

The highlight of his career was being an assistant coach for South Africa when they won the 2019 World Cup. “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, but it was nothing compared to the experience when we got home. That’s what made me realise that there was something different about South Africa. At that stage I was still deciding if I wanted to coach or do something else with my life. However, in that moment I realised I wanted to be a head coach which is why I went to England – you have to grow.” England was a steep learning curve, and he was able to grow a lot. “It is a privilege to coach another country’s national team and you have to do it with a lot of humility.”

About a month ago the Leopards phoned Proudfoot, asking if he’d be willing to be their head coach – the realisation of his dream. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you: If you dedicate yourself to your craft, life will find you. Your competency is not an indicator of success. It does open a door, yes, but your mindset and passion are the true indicators of success. If a job is just a job to you, the intensity is going to wane over time. There’s got to be passion and purpose.” – Susan Marais, Agriorbit

’n Beplanningskalender vir herkouerprodusente

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes Veeplaas het by finansiële kenners gaan aanklop om uit...

Regverdige en billike vergoeding vir grond

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes Artikel 25(2) van die Grondwet van die Republiek van...

Predators and problem animals on South African livestock farms

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes Livestock producers face many challenges, such as predator-related losses....

Ondersoek na vleisgehalte van die Boran-bees

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes Die Boran word beskou as ‘n vroeg-volwasse, medium-raam dier....