by Clara Bullock
An interest in dairy and a passion for travel has taken 21-year-old Mandy Smith around the world.
Smith grew up in rural Nova Scotia with family ties to dairy farming. She realized at a young age her passion for livestock production, but more than anything, her love for all living creatures. She knew one day she would attend Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Truro, N.S., and find a way to work with livestock as a career.
After completing her first year of an animal science degree, Smith realized caring for animals was not her only passion and began to pursue a degree in environmental management with a minor in animal science – the best of both worlds.
“I believe sustainable agriculture is the future,” said Smith. “As the world demands more meat and dairy, we need to find ways to minimize the environmental effects of production while providing our animals with the best lives possible.”
After her second year, Smith had the opportunity to travel to Finland for a summer internship to work on a dairy farm. There, she learned Finnish practices and ways of treating animals. That gave her a fresh look at how a farm could be managed and operated.
“The farm I was working with for three months had completely different ways of doing things,” said Smith. “It opened my mind to understand there are more ways than one to do something. If we work together as global citizens, we will have a better understanding of each other’s needs and learn things we may not otherwise understand.”
This year, Smith will complete the final year of her degree. She knew she had to find another opportunity through Dal AC’s international office to travel once again. She was notified of an opportunity to travel to Ethiopia to work on her fourth-year research project and jumped at the opportunity.
“I believe seeing practices around the world helps to come up with creative solutions that minimize waste,” she said. “It also helps with understanding what works best in different regions and cultures of the world.”
Smith’s fourth-year project, titled “Extending the shelf life of fluid milk,” is a study of cheese making in Ethiopia. Cheese making is an excellent way to lengthen the shelf life of milk when refrigeration is not always consistent or readily accessible. Extending the expiration of milk products allows for less food waste and increases food security.
“I wanted to experience dairy production in a developing country in order to get a better understanding of how dairy production works in different nations,” said Smith. “I will get an inside look at how the Tigray region of Ethiopia treat their animals and manage their dairy production.”
Smith was excited to be in the rural setting of Maichew, Ethiopia, for three weeks fermenting cheese and spending time with her favourite companions – cows.
“Dalhousie has made me more globally aware through my international experiences,” she said. “This project gives me the unique opportunity to experience different cultures and better understand other people and animals around the world.”
Smith expected to return to the Agricultural Campus at the end of June.
“I came here to do one job but this international experience will teach me far more than what I came here to do,” she said.
(Clara Bullock is an international food business student at Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus who is spending her summer in Ethiopia.)