A Day in the Life of a Wageningen University Student
June 5, 2014
Saving resources and improving the environment via dairy farming has been a common theme throughout Holland, where research plays a huge role in how education has grown. Ideas implemented in the dairy sector will eventually spread throughout agriculture. Environmental issues have been a topic brought up frequently in industry and the classroom in the United States where farmers are looking for better ways to reduce their carbon footprint and provide a better future.
Today, our group visited Wageningen University, one of the top research facilities for studying the environmental impact of livestock. We had the opportunity to listen to graduate students talk about their research and overall viewpoints on their subjects. The first graduate student, Corina Van Middelar gave a presentation about reducing greenhouse gas emissions via changing diets. Expanding off of Corina's presentation, Professor Jan Dijkstra looked into trade-off approaches to reducing the nitrogen excretions from dairy cattle. While nitrogen excretions from farms have decreased over the years, there is always room for improvement. In the Netherlands and the U.S., manure excretions and greenhouse gas emissions are of high importance, so finding an equal balance between these two problems will be crucial in future years. Britt de Klerk then veered from the environmental trail to speak about the health of cattle and how breeding for healthier cows could be part of the dairy farming future. She wanted cows that would need fewer antibiotics and would stay in the herd longer by breeding for longevity and health traits. Currently, in the Netherlands and America, we breed for higher production.
Our group then had the opportunity to tour the research facilities of Wageningen University, where we viewed animal gas collecting chambers that can measure the exact amount of gas production by an animal on a certain diet. This facility is a useful tool for environmental research of greenhouse emissions and is one of the best in the whole world. Though Michigan State University has similar equipment, they are not as advanced as those of WU. From there, we toured the fish-raising facility where oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are measured and analyzed from groups of fish. Systems had been put in place where the water from the fish tank was pumped out and filtered for the feces then returned to the tank as clean water. This organic matter is a huge byproduct of fish raising that can be used to fertilize certain plants at the UniFarm Greenhouse.
Later, the whole group had a chance to meet the students and interact with them and learn about their degree programs and areas of study. After a day at WU and seeing the many opportunities there, students in our study abroad group have been able to open their eyes to the possibility of pursuing further education in another country. This trip has definitely widened our horizons and now we feel that anything is possible.