Ahead of the herd

Published Tuesday, 20th August 2019 in Study at SRUC news

Andy Barr, from the Texel Sheep Society, with Rachel Gateley
Andy Barr, from the Texel Sheep Society, with Rachel Gateley

Applied Animal Science graduate Rachel Gateley proved she was ahead of the herd when she won a top award for her final degree project.

The 22-year-old from Balerno was awarded the Texel Sheep Society Educational Award for Best Honours Dissertation on a sheep-related topic.

Rachel, who graduated from Scotland’s Rural College last month, studied the use of newly available technology to investigate differences in feeding behaviour between Lleyn and Scottish Blackface sheep. 

She said: “I was honestly so shocked and grateful to receive the Texel Sheep Society award for my dissertation.

“Throughout my project I didn’t once consider the award – I was too busy sorting data – so to be recognised for my work on a subject which could hopefully benefit the industry was great.

“It also made all the difficulties and disasters – including smashing my memory stick – faced during those months worth it.

“I’d like to thank my supervisors Dr Nicola Lambe and Dr Ann McLaren for all their support and input.”

Dr McLaren said: “I’m delighted that Rachel’s hard work throughout her project has been recognised through this award from the Texel Sheep Society.

“The study was one of the first to assess individual sheep feeding behaviour using newly available technology and a number of findings from Rachel’s dissertation will hopefully go on to be extremely useful in future research projects.

“Rachel was a pleasure to work with and I wish her all the best for the future.”

It was Rachel’s love of animals that led her to study at SRUC’s Edinburgh campus.

“I come from an equine background, having been around horses since the age of four, but I have always had a keen interest in animals and the agricultural industry,” she said.

“Originally I had steered towards a career in design. However, after deciding that sitting inside a studio all day wasn’t for me, I realised that a degree in animals and agriculture could be the way to go.

“After hearing about SRUC at school, I looked into the Applied Animal Science degree more and it sounded perfect as it allowed me to combine the knowledge I already had with lots of new information, and it was mainly animal-based.”

She attributes a huge part of her success to the small class sizes at SRUC, giving students the chance to build relationships with all the lecturers.

“I also valued the experience and knowledge that our lecturers had outwith the university setting and their ability to relate our classroom discussions to real-life situations,” she said.

“The variation in student backgrounds also contributed to this as often everyone had a different point of view.

“I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit places such as feed mills that might not usually be accessible.”

Looking to the future, Rachel is hoping to end up in the nutrition industry – with either an equine or ruminant focus.

“With this course, your employment opportunities are endless and as such I now need to try and narrow it down,” she said.

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