It’s been 10 years since the first student graduated from Harper Adams University with a Diploma in Ruminant Nutrition thanks to an initiative spearheaded by Mole Valley Farmers.
In 2008 Chris Bartram, Head of Nutrition for Mole Valley Farmers approached Harper’s Professor of Animal Science, Liam Sinclair with a vision to professionalise the feed industry. Together, they set about designing an industry-leading course, which has since been attended by nearly 200 feed specialists.
From the outset, the aim was to put together an independent course for anyone involved in the feed industry, not just Mole Valley Farmers employees.
Dr Bartram adds: “We felt that there was a need for official training and certification within the animal feed industry. To sell animal medicines, you need an AMTRA qualification and to be an agronomist you need to be FACTS and BASIS qualified, but traditionally, there was nothing for ruminant nutritionists.
“Ultimately, it’s about professionalising the industry, and providing farmers with the confidence that the information they are being provided with is both accurate and up-to-date.”
The 18 month Diploma is now open to anyone working within the feed industry who wants to up-skill or gain a professional qualification.
As a formal qualification, it is validated every five years by an internal and external panel. The course runs over 18 months and is made up of four modules, which cover a range of topics from how rations are digested by ruminants to computer-based rationing and scientific developments in nutrition. The course consists of lectures, tutorials, practicals and farm and feed mill visits.
Shaun Hambley was among the first cohort of students to undertake the Diploma. Back then he was in the early stage of his career and valued taking his nutrition skills to the next level as part of his role as Feed Specialist for Mole Valley Farmers. Today, the course material stills proves a useful source of information, which he draws on as part of his role as Head of Alternative Feeds and Blends.
“Initially, it improved my confidence in doing the job and helped me to utilise additional skills on farm,” he explains. “It helped me identify areas that could make a real difference to my farmer customers. For example, I could use the information to challenge ration protein levels, save costs and maintain yields.”
Shaun believes the Diploma is hugely beneficial to the whole industry. “It raises confidence and standards in terms of how nutritionists work on farm and it’s recognised and respected,” he says.
Following the success of the Diploma, Harper Adams set up a Masters in Ruminant Nutrition as an option for feed specialists wanting to take their skills to the next level. Mole Valley Farmers has also been involved in its validation.