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Rebecca Rainey receives the Texel Sheep Society Educational Award

Posted 20 October

“I thoroughly enjoyed completing my chosen dissertation which enabled me to combine my interests of animal health, nutrition and breeding, around the subject of sheep lameness which I strongly believe is an area for improvement in the sheep industry on a global scale.”

Rebecca Rainey receives the Texel Sheep Society Educational Award

Rebecca Rainey receives the Texel Sheep Society Educational Award

Harper Adams graduate Rebecca is the 2020 winner of the Texel Sheep Society Educational Award

Each year, the Society presents £250 to the students who attain the highest marks on a sheep production related Honours Research project The awards are offered to students from four universities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Rebecca secured the award for her dissertation investigating whether a relationship existed between different ewe foot conditions, ewe body condition scores (and liveweight) at weaning and directly prior to mating, and subsequent ewe scanning rates.

“I chose to study this because I have seen first-hand, the significant economic and animal welfare compromises as a result of sheep lameness. This project was made possible by Innovis Ltd. who provided a data set consisting of over 1700 ewe records, derived from the company’s nucleus flock, with these records having been collected between 2016 and 2019,” she said.

Rebecca grew up on a suckler and sheep farm in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, where she developed a passion for working with livestock and learning about different production systems and stock improvement strategies. She continued farming during the lockdown period, establishing her own flock of commercial ewes.

Explaining why she chose to study BSc (Hons) Animal Science at Harper Adams University, Rebecca said “I find animals fascinating and wanted to learn more about the science behind livestock production. I also consider myself to be a practical person and love being in the countryside, working with livestock.

“Harper Adams met all the criteria I was looking for in a university; a rural location, where I could learn both theoretically and practically through lectures and on-farm/laboratory tutorials... In addition to having an excellent reputation, Harper Adams has enabled me to study alongside and meet people with similar interests in the agriculture industry.” She continued.

Lecturer Janet Roden added: “Rebecca was an extremely thoughtful and diligent student, who is motivated by a thirst for knowledge and the application of science to improve practice in sheep and beef production. In order to complete her project, she carried out analysis of a complex data set, using a variety of statistical techniques, and presented the results in a clear manner. Rebecca's interpretation of the results clearly demonstrates her ability to find practical applications of research findings.

“Rebecca's dissertation examined the relationship between foot health in ewes in early lactation and their body weight and condition score at weaning and just before tupping. She also followed this through to see how this impacted the subsequent scanning result of the ewes. The study was conducted using data gathered from Aberfield ewes at the Innovis nucleus flock in West Wales. The Aberfield is a Texel/Blue Faced Leicester composite.” Janet explained.

Harper Adams has presented Rebecca with a number of opportunities to expand on her skills and develop her knowledge to prepare her for future employment.

“I have enjoyed all my course and feel it has made me much more confident in making independent decisions regarding livestock production. It covered all aspects of livestock production including animal anatomy and physiology, genetics and breeding, farm animal health, welfare and disease science, farm animal production systems and sustainability.

“I thoroughly enjoyed completing my chosen dissertation which enabled me to combine my interests of animal health, nutrition and breeding, around the subject of sheep lameness which I strongly believe is an area for improvement in the sheep industry on a global scale.” Rebecca said.

Rebecca spent her placement year at Fane Valley Group in Northern Ireland. She was involved in the sales of animal health products and farm supplies, and her role included customer service and advise, while preparing orders for dispatch and printing livestock tags.

Following her graduation, Rebecca has been selected for a temporary position at Progressive Genetics in the Republic of Ireland, working in their milk recording department. She was selected based on her ability to communicate with farmers and her knowledge of dairy systems, for the role, which involves providing farmer support, ensuring data accuracy, milk quality and promoting milk recording.

“My primary interest besides farming is in the area of livestock reproduction and in the future, I intend to continue learning about this and hopefully obtain a job in the area of animal breeding and genetics, alongside the expansion of my own farm enterprise.” Rebecca added.

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