John Goodwin, a participant on the AFTP's MSc in Sustainable and Efficient Food Production, delivered at Aberystwyth University, is looking to use the scientific knowledge gained on his course to address one of the acute issues for sheep farmers in the winter - Pasteurella pneumonia in both sheep and lambs.
John is a 45 year old graduate farming in Powys, Wales. He has always had an interest in science and in applying the latest research to sustainably increase production on his farm.
John says: “I had been considering applying for a Nuffield Scholarship but didn’t feel I’d have the time, but then I saw this [AFTP] course advertised at the Royal Welsh Show back in 2015 and was struck by how well it seemed to fit what I needed, both in terms of content and time commitment. I decided to take the whole MSc”.
John had no preconceptions about what distance learning training would be like - “I just jumped into the dark with both feet!” he says. At first, he found it difficult to get into the swing of the training but soon surprised himself with how organised he could be. John has now flown through six taught modules and is working on his dissertation.
What was his favourite module? John found the 'Genetics and Genomics in Agriculture' module truly inspiring! “I was already running a sheep breeding programme using EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values) but the increased understanding I gained from the module, for instance around how heritability affects the use of EBVs, enthused me to make much more of this. I am now genotyping rams for health issues which is already having a positive financial impact on the farm”.
For his dissertation, John is looking at a problem that directly affects his farm: Pasteurella pneumonia in lambs. It’s early days yet but, working with two University researchers, John is hoping to be able to uncover a genetic trait for resistance to the disease.
John says: “I was thinking why the course has suited me so well and it is because it addressed so many of the issues which in the past I have spent my days wondering about. I have really enjoyed the training and would recommend the course to anyone interested in making the link between farming practice and current research”.