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Isabella Danks: Career in Agriculture and Animal Science

I’ve worked on a variety of farms since I was 13 years old, ranging from chickens to alpacas, but most of my experience and expertise is with pigs and poultry. Since I had a passion for animals, I went on to study BSc in Agriculture with Animal Science at Harper Adams University. After I graduated in 2018, I moved to Scotland to work for a poultry genetics company. Since then, I’ve also worked on several pig units including a pig trials farm, specifically focusing on nutrition. This involved working with several industry professionals to test different diets and supplements, as well as monitoring key performance indicators like growth rate, feed conversion rate, weaning weight etc.

Role as a Pig Farm Assessor at RSPCA Assured

My job mainly involves assessing pig farms throughout Scotland and ensuring they are sticking to all of the RSPCA’s rigorous higher welfare standards. My favourite part of the job is meeting different food producers and hearing their individual stories and backgrounds. I’m really in my element when I’m out on farms and interacting with producers and their livestock. I’m definitely at my happiest when I’m in a pair of wellies!

Upholding Higher Animal Welfare: The Most Important Part of the Role

The animals are of course the most important part of being an assessor. It’s our responsibility to make sure that on RSPCA Assured farms, the standards are being upheld and that the animals have the best possible quality of life.

Enjoying the Flexibility and Support at RSPCA Assured

One of my favourite parts about the role is being out on farms and the amazing flexibility that it brings. One day, I could be working in an office, and the next, I’m walking through a muddy field. This variety ensures I never get bored, and it truly makes all the difference.

I’m also part of a great company where everyone is so supportive and friendly. I feel like a valued member of the assessor team already despite having only started in January 2023.

Advice for Aspiring Farm Assessors: Encouraging Conversations for Better Results

My main piece of advice would be to ask lots of questions! It’s the only way you’re going to learn. It’s also really important to stay in contact with your colleagues, they’re the closest people to you and the first people you’re going to ask for help when you need it.

It’s also really important to build a good rapport with the farmers. An assessment shouldn’t be a clinical, by-the-numbers process, it should be more of a conversation which flows naturally. That’s how you get the best results and that’s how we continue to improve the lives of the animals.

Balancing Work and Life: Interests Outside of Animal Welfare

Outside of work, I enjoy weightlifting. I can lift some pretty heavy weights! I make it a point to go to the gym four or five times a week. I’m also pretty handy around the kitchen and I love trying out new recipes. I enjoy various cuisines, but my favourite dish to prepare is Chinese-spiced pork ribs. I often have friends over to our house and love to make it for them!

Meet the Pets: Milo and Odin, the Rescued Companions

I’ve got two rescue animals, a cat named Milo and a dog named Odin. Odin didn’t have a name when we first saw him, and since he only has one eye and my partner is very into Norse mythology we quickly decided to call him Odin.

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