Find Your Niche
Hello, my name is Mariah Gull. This week I get to introduce myself, and give you a little insight on how I found my niche in calf and heifer management and came to write the blog here on the Calf Distinction website!
Although all of my grandparents came from farming backgrounds, I did not grow up on a farm. Each of them left their family farms and pursued different careers to raise their families. However, even as a small child I always had a deep love for large animals. I was blest with wonderful parents who provided me with opportunities to pursue my interests.
Other than visiting my cousin’s dairy farm a couple of times, I didn’t have much exposure to the dairy industry until I was 14 years old. I had the most amazing 4-H leader, Maria Nye. She and her family had recently relocated their dairy farm to Millard County, Utah and she was very influential promoting dairy projects in our county 4-H program.
Maria and her family are very passionate about the dairy industry and about sharing their passion with others. She was generous enough to let many of us “non-dairy” kids show her cattle, and took the time to teach us how to care for them and fit them for show. I am very grateful for Maria, and the opportunity she provided me through 4-H that sparked my interest in the dairy industry.
When my 4-H days came to an end, I headed off to college with bright hopes for the future! I was 90% certain I wanted to become a veterinarian, and if that didn’t work out then I wanted to pursue something in animal or human nutrition. I chose to study Biology as my pre-vet program at Southern Utah University. The summer after my sophomore year, I was able to shadow a very successful local veterinarian. It was a good experience, and I learned a lot, but I questioned if that was really the career I should pursue. I thought before I made my final decision and went on to vet school maybe I should try something else. The following semester, a dairy nutritionist from a large feed company came and gave a presentation to our Block and Bridle Club. He talked about possible internships with his company, and I decided to apply!
After a few interviews I was delighted to find out I had scored the internship, and even better I was going to be working in my home area of Southern Utah! I learned a lot during that summer internship and decided I wanted to instead pursue a master’s degree in dairy nutrition. When surprise, at the end of the summer they just offered me a job that would start the following year after I finished my bachelors degree. I was astonished, but didn’t have to think long before I agreed!
During my 9 years with this company I was blest to work with many mentors, and producers that influenced my life and helped to shape me personally and in my career. I entered this career field with the intention of learning to become a nutritionist, and thought I would mostly be focusing on mature producing animals. However, along the way I jumped at every opportunity to learn something new. One example is when we needed a silage specialist, I stepped up and learned how to fill that role. I have come to experience that every single thing we learn can be applied and built upon to enhance our own abilities.
Over the years of working with producers primarily in Southern Utah and Southern Idaho, I came to realize that although I loved all aspects of dairy nutrition, I really had a passion for the young stock. I really am fascinated with the idea that we can raise a calf that was originally designed to stay on the dam, drink large volumes of milk, and slowly develop a rumen, just as well and in some cases, maybe even better, on a bottle, and with properly formulated calf starters, have the rumen ready to transition to dry feed by 6-8 weeks of age! I also love all the concepts we are learning about neonatal programming, the importance of colostrum and transition milk, and everything involved in developing the immune system of the calf.
About 4 years ago I made the decision to quit my job as a dairy nutritionist/calf and heifer specialist, and stay home with my small children. It was difficult to leave team members and producers that I loved working with, but I didn’t want to pass up the limited time I had while my children were small.
During my time off, even though I was busy being a mom, I had a little time to think about what I would want to do if the opportunity to return to a career in the calf and heifer industry came available. One of my biggest frustrations as a calf nutritionist, was that it didn’t matter how great the milk or milk replacer was, or how amazing the starter formulation was, if calves were getting sick we wouldn’t get the performance we were looking for. I decided then and there, if and when I went back to work, then I wanted to focus most on helping producers have healthy calves, by preventing disease.
Fall of 2020, I was offered the opportunity to work from home and write the blog here on the Calf Distinction website. I couldn’t be more excited, as this opportunity provided me a way to share my knowledge and experience with producers, continue to learn new things, and still be at home with my children!
If I had one word of advice for anyone developing themselves in their own career field, whether it be a farmer, rancher, calf raiser, herdsman, manager, employee, breeder, or anyone aspiring to work in the cattle industry as a veterinarian, nutritionist, or anything else. It would be to find your niche. Each and every single one of us matters, we all have strengths and weaknesses, but together we can accomplish much! Find where your passion lies and build upon it. Work hard each and every day to learn something new and build upon your foundation. Our industry is changing and evolving in ways we may have never imagined. Maximize opportunities for learning and growth. Think outside the box when making decisions that will set you up for what tomorrow brings.
Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.