Undergraduate Students Intern in Production Agriculture, Gaining Experience and Creating Change

ANSC students return with valuable experience from their internships

Lilly Rainey (left), and Mary Cate Parent (right)

August 31, 2022 Jonathan Stephanoff

Every summer students from the department of Animal and Avian Sciences take internships in a wide variety of fields, corporations, and organizations. From veterinary practices to corporate growers, and research labs to farm hands, our students gain additional hands-on application to their education. Two summers ago, Dr. Monica VanKlompenberg made ANSC359 (Internship Experience in Animal and Avian Sciences) available during the summer. Through this course, students create a guided academic project with internships on and off campus that are paid or unpaid. The class can fill a Scholarship in Practice or an Advanced ANSC Elective requirement.

This summer, two ANSC students interned with different production agriculture corporations and returned with valuable experience to share with classmates and research to shift agricultural producer practices. Mary Cate Parent interned in the poultry industry at Perdue and Lilly Rainey interned in the swine industry at The Maschhoffs.

Mary Cate Parent:

Mary Cate Parent spent this summer working with the poultry industry as a Live Operation Intern for Perdue in the Delmarva North region, based in Laurel, DE. Parent worked closely with individual flock advisors learning how to service farms, work with growers, and some corporate aspects of Perdue’s operations. She spent time at processing plants, hatcheries, feed mills, health services, and corporate planning. She also conducted research into Cornish flocks involving the collection of data on egg, chick, and bird body weight uniformities in order to statistically analyze and track uniformity over time in the Cornish birds. The following are condensed responses providing an overview of her internship:

My days had a lot of variation as at times I would spend the entire day collecting data for my project, touring a different facility, or working with a flock advisor … my normal day consisted of riding along with a small bird flock advisor and assisting them with their route, servicing houses. I usually would branch off on my own towards the end of the day … and analyze whatever data I had at the time to start tracking the trends occurring in Cornish uniformity. I would then get some time to go over my findings with my managers in the office.

The best day at my internship was when I was offered a position to come back after graduation to work with the same team in a Live Management Trainee position. I was very happy to get this news and accepted the offer! I was glad that my hard work was noticed and that my managers appreciated my work ethic and interest to learn and grow in the poultry industry.

Another memorable experience at my internship was attending a Perdue Organization of Woman (POW) meeting. At this meeting I was able to connect with the other women working with Perdue … I enjoyed the opportunity to make connections with other women working in the industry and hearing about their experiences. I also appreciate that Perdue creates such a welcoming and supportive environment for all employees.

Through this internship, I learned that my interest in animal science truly falls within the poultry industry. Before this internship, I did not have any working experience within the poultry industry, only having experiences with dairy cattle and swine. I am glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried something new.

My advice for another student looking at an internship similar to that of mine would be to take it. There are so many different opportunities within the poultry industry that you can truly explore through an internship such as mine. Doing such an internship can also open so many doors for you as it did for me! Try new things, explore different areas of animal science, and get out of your comfort zone!

Lilly Rainey:

Lilly Rainey spent this summer working with the swine industry at The Maschhoffs as the wean-to-market intern in southern Illinois. Rainey worked with pigs from three weeks old to market weight at about six months. She provided animal care including treatments and vaccines, while working closely with a wean-to-market manager to learn what it takes to bring piglets up to market weight. Rainey also ran a research project working with disadvantaged pigs, which include any pig under seven pounds or that have toe, joint, abscess, or scar issues that are normally euthanized. She tagged, tracked, and weighted these pigs all summer to determine if they could still make a Grade A pig and go to market. The following are condensed responses providing an overview of her internship:

There was never a "normal day" since I did something different each day. I spent a good bit of time grading pigs ... I [also] weighed and tagged all of the pigs I needed for my research project. I spent a lot of time learning about ventilation settings which is extremely important in swine production. On the management side, I learned how to complete field service inspections, order products for a site, or plan out market loads … I also spent some time on the sow farm learning how to heat check sows, artificially inseminate sows, assist in farrowing, and perform day 1 and day 3 care on the piglets. … I spent some time in the corporate office with the marketing team and learned how to plan out market loads and book truck drivers. Finally, I got to go on a feed mill tour with the other interns where I learned how the feed mill operates.

My favorite day of the internship was our final presentations because I got to demonstrate all of the hard work I had done all summer. The results from my research project found that more pigs should be given the chance to make a Grade A pig and changed the way many wean-to-market managers will continue grading pigs. This was exciting for me because my research actually made an impact on the managers.

My most memorable experiences were spending time with the other six interns and people from the company. The Maschhoffs always went out of their way to make sure that us interns were having fun and being treated well. On our first day there, they took us on a party bus to top golf and we had a blast. We also got to go to a local Grizzly's baseball game and two Cardinals games. The owners of the company even had us over for dinner at their house twice, which one would not expect from such a large company. Even just being there for one summer, I could tell that the Maschhoffs truly valued their employees and treated everyone like family.

I gained a ton of knowledge on commercial swine production from this internship. I had previously only worked on a small scale swine farm, so seeing things on the commercial scale was very eye opening … I also learned how difficult disease management can be and that wean-to-market is not as easy as it seems. I learned what goes into breeding, farrowing, and processing of piglets in breed-to-wean as well.

I would tell a student looking to do [an internship like this one] to keep their options open because they never know what experiences they will gain, or what they will end up liking … I always thought I wanted to work in breed-to-wean, but after my internship as a wean-to-market intern, I found a love for wean-to-market as well. Second, I would say to not be afraid to travel far for an internship, job, or experience. It was definitely out of my comfort zone to move to Illinois for a whole summer, but I grew so much from it. My final piece of advice would be to absolutely intern for The Maschhoffs because it was by far the best internship I have ever done and I gained so much from it.