Shepherding change

A scientist from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), who started her working life as a shepherdess, has received a prestigious award from the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP).

Dr Joanne Conington, who has developed novel breeding programmes for the sustainable genetic improvement of sheep and goats in practice, is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her career and service to the livestock sector.

After gaining her undergraduate degree in Agriculture and Food Marketing from Newcastle University, she worked as shepherdess in Scotland for two years to gain more practical experience.

Her combined interests in livestock and international development led her to Bolivia where she worked as a livestock specialist with a Bolivian NGO alongside smallholder farmers in the high Andean plains.

When she returned to the UK, she completed an MSc in Livestock Production Science at the University of Aberdeen and afterwards worked as a sheep specialist for the Meat and Livestock Commission, providing advice to farmers on the ground.

In 1992, she took up a post as a Livestock Geneticist at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) – now SRUC, leading on the development of breeding programmes for sheep.

Nearly three decades later – having completed a PhD in Animal Breeding while raising three young boys and being made a Reader in Applied Livestock Genetics – she is Head of the Department of Agriculture, Horticulture and Engineering Sciences at SRUC’s Central Faculty.

If Covid-19 restrictions allow, she will receive the award at the annual meeting of the EAAP in Davos, Switzerland, in September.

She said: “I am deeply honoured. To be recognised by my peers in academia and industry is the icing on the cake. It’s amazing.”

Isabel Casasús, EAAP President, said: “Jo has made remarkable contributions in the field of genetic and genomics of sheep efficiency, with special emphasis on ewe longevity and the survival of the offspring. Her service to EAAP, particularly in the Sheep and Goat Scientific Commission, has been very valuable to our community.”

John Yates, Chief Executive of The British Texel Sheep Society, said: “I am delighted to see Jo’s excellent work in livestock research recognised by EAAP. Jo has, throughout her career, made an outstanding contribution to the livestock sector through her research work and has also inspired many others along the way. Her dedication, passion and knowledge of her subject is second to none and she brings immense value to every project she is associated with.”

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.