My University Study Abroad Experience

Written By Kelsie Mannasmith

Last summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Scotland and England with Ohio State. This was a trip that was tailored specifically to my agricultural communication major. We experienced farms in the United Kingdom, met with agricultural publication companies, and went sightseeing across the countries.

Agricultural Experiences in Other Countries

Ve-Tech Holsteins

Our first agricultural stop was Ve-Tech Holsteins in Mauchline, Scotland. For the most part, the basics of the farm seemed similar to the United States. These were aspects such as the feed pusher, silage, and barn area.

The farmers mentioned that the UK does not produce much hay; therefore, they do not use it as feed. After they said this, it made sense, but I hadn’t thought of it before. Since the UK gets so much rain, it is hard to make hay a primary food source for the animals. So, silage is used much more often than we see in the United States.

Scotland’s Rural College

The second destination was Scotland’s Rural College. Here, we saw their mobile CT livestock scanning facility. They primarily test sheep with this machine. The animals are led through a chute, then elevated to the mobile trailer for scanning. They use the information to improve genetics in a herd, including the measurements of internal tissues and structures.

We also saw the college’s beef facility. The tour guides explained how the feed bins worked to track the health and diet of the cattle. Basically, the bin wouldn’t allow feeding until the animal’s ear tag was scanned by the bin. Then, the restrictive bar would lower, revealing the feed to the animal. I had never seen this before, so I thought it was super cool! I thought it was very conducive to research to have this technology to track how much an animal eats, helping in maintaining growth rates of the herd.

Each of these facilities also featured methane testing areas. The UK focuses heavily on researching adverse effects of farming on the environment, and this is one advancement that will hopefully help them do that in the future. It is not widely used yet, but they are hoping to make the technology better. In summary of the technology, they test different diets on cattle to see which produces the least amount of methane. They aim to adjust diets according to the data that they find.

As a whole, the farms we visited didn’t seem to have much concern for biosecurity, which I am not used to. This is possibly due to their tourist traffic, so it is their way of balancing education and profit for the health of their animals.

After our visit to the college, we had lunch with some students. These students were “pen pals” with the University of Arkansas students that we were traveling with. During lunch, we also had the editor of The Scottish Farmer, Ken Fletcher, speak to us about agriculture in the media. One of the Arkansas students asked what he would title an article if it were the only article he wrote. Ken responded with, “Eat Good Food.”

Netherton Angus

Our next stop was to Netherton Angus Farm in Auchterarder, Scotland. I thought it was interesting that they raised their heifers to have masculine features. This farm produces Scotland’s highest quality marbled meat. I saw the best views in Scotland at Netherton Farm.

Fife Show

The Fife show was essentially a county fair experience. This was interesting because they had all the animals in pens outside—no barns. The show arenas were in the grass, and horses were the largest exhibit.

Farmers Guardian – Agriconnect

We visited Farmers Guardian, an agricultural publication company in England. We talked about their strategies for bridging the gap between agriculture and consumers. I thought it was interesting to hear that this is a widespread topic, not just in the US. We shared FFA with them and how we became interested in agriculture. Many of their employees didn’t come from an agricultural background but had a passion for improving the industry. This was not a big surprise to me because the UK is so focused on the environment and many people are committed to agriculture in that way.

US Embassy

In London, we had the opportunity to visit the US Embassy. We met with Kathy Yao, the Agricultural Attaché for the UK and Ireland. She told us about her experiences before the position she holds now. I thought it was a great way to learn about other opportunities in agriculture. I had never thought of an internship abroad before this.

Cultural Differences

This was my second trip to the UK, so I wasn’t shocked by the culture. Last summer, however, I was very surprised with the slight differences that I noticed.

  • Environmentally conscious: I noticed many signs and labels that mentioned this concept.
  • Meal sizes: Lunch is the most important meal of the day in the UK. Even still, it is still not the portions that we are used to in the US. I can remember a lot of the people in my tour group last summer that complained that it wasn’t enough food. This is a stereotype that I saw with my own eyes!
  • Business hours: Most places close around 6 p.m., which I wasn’t prepared for. Really, if you want to go somewhere, the only places that are open are pubs, as the drinking culture is very different from the US.

Unexpected Differences

I thought that the food would be a lot different than in the US. However, much of their diet contains the same as ours, with less taste. Much of the food was bland, which definitely wasn’t what I expected. However, they did have different kinds of dishes that aligned with their cultural history. I tried many of these dishes for the experience and learned that I prefer food from home.

Impact on My View of Agriculture and Other Countries

My experience with agriculture in the UK helped me to understand the importance of advocating for the industry. When I first visited last summer, I was preparing for my first year of college, and I was able to fully grasp the importance of agriculture as I saw it in different countries. During my trip this year, the experience reinforced my decision to receive an education in agricultural communication, where I can actively exercise advocating for agriculture. These trips also gave me an appreciation for the variation of life that exists in other countries. Without these experiences, I wouldn’t know how others have adapted to fit into their environments throughout history.

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