Brooke McNeil

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.Sc.

Primary Faculty Advisor: Trevor DeVries

Project: Supplementing Glycerol to Transition Dairy Cows to Improve Metabolic Status, Health and Productivity

Department: Department of Animal Biosciences, OAC

What inspired you to pursue your current degree?

My experience working on dairy farms, learning about and caring for the animals, as well as my undergraduate Honours project experience where my interest in research grew, inspired me to pursue a Masters degree. Also, I have seen firsthand the extremely busy lifestyle dairy farmers live, so it can be very challenging for them to keep up with advancements in knowledge. I would like to hold a position in the future to bridge that gap. The knowledge and skills I am learning from graduate studies will help me to achieve this.

What about your research area excites you?

I am really passionate about calf health and welfare, so getting to conduct research in this area to increase what we know, and that may be used to support the implementation of improved practices is really exciting to me!

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them?

Statistics is a part of research that I find challenging. To overcome this challenge, I recently took a statistics course which was extremely helpful. I have a lot of data associated with my research, and so I will have lots of opportunities to use what I learned to practice and become more confident in statistics.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project?

My Masters research involves investigating how plant- and bacterial-based feed supplements, as well as calf personality, affect calf health, growth and welfare, particularly under stressful situations. If there are benefits of these supplements, this research will support their incorporation into the diets of dairy calves on commercial farms to support calf health, growth, and welfare.

What do you see as your next steps after completing your degree?

I recently accepted a Ph.D. offer! Following my Masters, I will be joining another lab in the Animal Biosciences department at U of G. My Ph.D. will be focused on calf nutrition and physiology which is extremely in line with my interests. I am really excited about this opportunity!

What role has the HQP scholarship played in your academic journey so far?

The HQP scholarship has been a huge part of the success of my academic journey so far. The financial support means I have less financial stress which supports my ability to focus on my studies, allowing me to take many courses and conduct research projects which have increased my knowledge and skills. The Agri-Food and Innovation course, which is a required course for HQP scholarship recipients, provided the opportunity to collaborate with others from multiple departments which was a nice and unique experience. Through this course, I also got to learn more about the important topic of food insecurity in Canada, through conducting a group research project, which was another valuable experience.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab?

Outside of my studies, I love to spend time with friends, work with animals, and hike/run.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic?

One important thing that was reinforced during the pandemic, more than ever before for me, is the importance of work-life balance. I have found working from home along with the discouragement of visiting others to be hard, specifically, easy to fall into a routine where you don’t get a sufficient break from work to refresh. Therefore, I’ve learned to prioritize doing activities such as visiting friends within my bubble, going for a run, watching a movie or baking to get the break I need, which increases my productivity when focusing on my studies!