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David Innes's success story

David grew up on the outskirts of Brisbane. He was first introduced to agriculture through his primary school’s small teaching farm. David liked being outside, and he was fascinated by how things work and where food came from.

During high school he elected to complete agricultural studies and spent some of his holidays travelling to different farms. He enjoyed working on cattle, pig and horticultural farms.

David’s parents had spent some time as rural teachers, so they suggested he look at career options outside of Brisbane.

He studied a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Queensland. “It took me five years to complete because I studied part-time. I had various jobs, and one of them was working at the dairy on the university campus.”

David was introduced to the university’s onsite dairy through his degree, when he was involved in a research internship. At the end of the project he was offered a part-time job on the dairy, and when he finished his degree, David started working full time.

“I was feeding, did pasture-management, a bit of milking here and there, but mostly worked around nutrition,” he said.

But David wanted to do more, so when he was asked to be involved in more research, it captured his interest; “We helped with a fair bit of research through the farm, but I also did my Honours project while I was in my Undergrad. The team that I did my first research project with suggested I do my PhD, which I’ve recently started.”

For his PhD, David is looking into the physiological mechanisms that control feed intake in ruminants (cattle and sheep). He is particularly interested in understanding why cattle sometimes eat less than they should when consuming a low-quality diet in northern Australia’s extensive production systems.

“For example, if they have a bad diet that’s low protein and low energy, you’d expect them to eat more food so they can absorb more protein and energy, ,” David explains. “But they eat less food even though physically they can fit a whole lot more in, for some reason, they’re not eating. So, we’re trying to map out the physiological pathways in the body to explain that and develop a model that we can then eventually manipulate.”

The project focusses on extensive beef systems, but may have applications in other industries. David credits his hands-on work at the dairy for helping him to have a practical knowledge of agricultural challenges, which in turn, has helped to form his research.

Keen to further his experience David has also tried his hand at horticulture. He started a small business with friends, growing and selling pumpkins, which has taught him key business skills.

David plans to complete his PhD within the next four years. While in the long term he is interested in a hands-on role where he can apply his research knowledge; “I’d probably like to get into some sort of role in industry where I can apply research knowledge through extension,” he said.

David’s Tips:
– You just have to try it and don’t pretend that you know everything – if you work hard, people will show you what to do. They have a lot of respect for young people coming from urban areas who want to learn about the industry.

– You’ve just got to admit what you know and what you don’t know and just be excited to be in the industry. Eventually you will find your feet and what you’re interested in.

– There are a lot of opportunities that people never really think about. There’s opportunities at every level in agriculture, from the city to the country. There are lots of jobs in just the logistics that go on about getting things to the farm and the engineering involved with our high-tech equipment – there’s lots of jobs that people don’t think about.

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