A day in the life of Lucy Ross

11 Feb 2020

Department of Animal Science University of Nottingham
PhD: Heifer rearing and whole-farm feed efficiency in UK dairy systems

Prior to my PhD I graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2018 with first class honours in Animal Science BSc

A typical day for me is dependent if I am on study or not. Working with large animals often means studies last months rather than weeks or days- in my case my last nutritional study expanded nine months! When I am not at the dairy, I usually prefer working at my desk in the postgraduate office.


Most mornings my alarm goes off at 6.30am, however during the summer when it is lighter earlier my three hens are my usual morning wakeup call! I am an early riser as I also have my horse Febe and prefer to have her stable all ready for the evening before work. My normal morning routine when I am on study would be to let the hens out, grab my breakfast (which I have hopefully made the night before), turn out and muck out Febe then arrive at the farm to the feed the cows for 7.30am. If I don’t need to be in early that day I like to take Febe for a ride before I get into the office which is usually at about 10am.

7.30 am

Our feeding robot at the dairy is programmed to start mixing the first diet so that it is all ready to be fed out for when we arrive at 7.30am. This means that we can start feeding almost immediately without too much waiting around as there are usually 3 or 4 diets to be fed out. If we need to collect faecal samples that day we usually do this beforehand to get it out the way early!

9.30 am

If all goes well feeding usually takes around 2 hours. After all the diets have been fed out and the feed face tidied up again, we normally have a quick break before we start either blood or rumen fluid sampling in which I’ll eat my breakfast that I’ve hopefully packed as a morning of feeding and sampling cows is hungry work! I’ll then help round up and sample the required cows which can take anywhere from 15 mins to two hours depending on what week of study we are on.

11-12 pm

Once sampling is finished, we will then take the samples back to the lab to be labelled and centrifuged. Again, this can take anywhere from 15mins to over an hour depending on how many samples were taken that morning.

12 pm

Fortunately, I am only a 5-10 min cycle from the dairy and campus so once I have finished with the samples in the lab I will usually cycle back home for an hour (ish) to have a quick shower and lunch. If I’ve been working in the office I more often than not will eat my lunch at my desk. I don’t think this is a good habit, so I am trying to catch up with friends over lunch instead or at least have lunch outside of the office.

1 pm

Once back in the office, I will try to spend the afternoon updating any material and methods or do some literature review, although recently I have been trying to finish analysing some health data, I want to submit in my summary for BSAS annual conference next year. Some weeks I may also meet with one or both of my supervisors to check all is going okay or I may have a telephone conference for committees I am involved in, or on the one-off I may participate in a sensory study to help out fellow postgraduates in food science! If I’m not on study I will try to do my office work in the mornings as during term time I also demonstrate in undergraduate laboratory practical’s some afternoons or will attend additional courses to supplement my PhD throughout the year. If my day starts in the office the first thing, I like to do is write a to-do list for the day as well as for the rest of the week as I find this keeps me much more focused throughout the day. I also enjoy being able to tick something off!

3.30 – 4.30 pm

About mid-afternoon I will head back over to the dairy to check any cows on study. This involves checking individual feed intakes from the morning and a quick walk around the pen which usually takes about 15 – 30 mins. Previously I would also use this time to manually collect calf live weight data if necessary that week, a small obstacle in my PhD as I was never able to access the data from the automatic milk feeding machine remotely!

5 pm

I usually finish my working day about 5pm and head straight to the yard to get Febe in. I then spend my time in the early evenings catching up on life admin or on the rare occasion attempting a run or gym class.

7.30 pm

Dinner for me is usually about 7.30pm as I like to have some time afterwards to watch T.V. or read, sometimes this may also involve some mind-numbing number crunching in excel which doesn’t require much brain power! Although on Tuesday’s I meet with my local Young Farmers at 7.30pm which is an appreciated break from the world of academia.

10.30 pm

Before I go to bed, I will prep my lunch (and breakfast if I’m at the dairy early) for the next day which saves me a bit of money on a student budget. Lunch is normally either pasta, sandwiches or leftovers from dinner, with two pieces of fruit, carrots with hummus and yogurt with chia seeds and honey – I do eat a lot! I will then shut the hens in before heading to bed myself about 10.30pm.