Over the past four years, seven Penn Vet students have participated in externships in China at the Huaxia Dairy. Gabriel Innes, V'16, shares some reflections from his journey last summer.
I was accepted for a dairy fellowship at Huaxia Dairy in Sanhe, China, about an hour-and-a-half east of Beijing by bus. Upon arrival, I immediately understood why the dairy was located in such a rural setting, as there were over 10,000 calves, heifers, and cows. My comrades and I were excited to get our hands dirty. Literally.
During our time there, we took the opportunity to research every facet of the dairy. We interviewed almost everyone, from managers, to the people that picked up manure, to the veterinarians. This was eye-opening, not only in regards to the farm itself, but also about China’s politico-economic climate. We learned about people’s daily lives and qualms. This came in a variety of forms, including monetary problems and the constant fear of contracting a zoonotic disease – mostly brucellosis, a disease easily managed in the US, but one that can be debilitating in some other countries.
Based on our findings, most of the problems could be improved with basic training and reinforced management. We conducted research reports on our discoveries and provided suggestions for better efficiency. We modified already existing operating procedures and created new ones for everything from milking, to dystocia, to treating mastitis, to feeding cows. By the end of our externship, my two colleagues and I had written an entire blueprint for this dairy farm operation.
Perhaps our research will not be used, but regardless, I learned both about the dairy industry in general, as well as the difficulties that are encountered in a place so different from home. I will take the lessons I learned during the trip throughout my career and my life.