Richard Meyer of NSW DPI walks us through a typical day in his role as a NSW DPI feed chemist

AN EXACT SCIENCE: Richard Meyer of the NSW Department of Primary Industries in Wagga conducts soil testing. Picture: Nikki Reynolds
AN EXACT SCIENCE: Richard Meyer of the NSW Department of Primary Industries in Wagga conducts soil testing. Picture: Nikki Reynolds

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Richard Meyer is a feed chemist with the NSW Department of Primary Industries in Wagga.

He oversees testing of some 12,000 to 15,000 samples a year. The Feed Test Laboratory in Wagga was opened in 2005 and attracts commercial and scientific samples from as far away as Western Australia and the Northern Territory. 

6:30: Rise and shine and then it’s breakfast with wife Vicki and daughter Tahlia before walking the dog. 

8.30: Mr Meyer arrives at the Feed Quality Service Laboratory (FQWS), and meets the technical team and inspects and authorises any of the testing of feed samples. “The team consists of a dedicated group of permanent and casual staff who have an incredible range of skills and talents,” he said. 

Mr Meyer said the lab tests a wide range of samples for feed nutritional value including hay, silage, mixed rations and other supplements as well as pasture and livestock trial samples for sheep, beef and dairy industries. 

“We also receive samples to determine nutritional value for pigs, poultry and fish,” he said. 

“We are a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited lab and all samples are associated with paperwork that needs to flow a chain of custody with multiple people checking and authorising incoming samples. 

9.00: This time is used to revise emails and make phone calls. 

9.30: “I check in with technical, equipment and supply issues with staff in the FQS lab,” he said. This might be starting any pending gas chromatography runs for volatile fatty acid analysis of silage and rumen-filled samples. 

10.15: “It’s time to revitalise with a coffee and a catch up,” Mr Meyer said. 

10.30: “We check quality control data and collate results for larger research related jobs,” he said. This is also a chance to discuss any anomalies with staff and researchers. “About 50 per cent of the samples come from research organisations supporting trials and research for NSW DPI and other primary industry organisations,” he said. 

12.30: Lunch and a “friendly” game of cards.

1.15: Method development and calibration occurs. “The FQS lab is continually listening to client and is active in the area of method development,” he said. 

2.40: It’s time to check with the technical staff and complete any final control checks or upload data. 

4pm: “I determine any necessary additional requirements in terms of resources for the following day,” he said. 

5:15pm: Leave work and head home. 

5.30pm: It’s time to touch base with the family and catch up on the day’s events with Tahlia and Vicki before taking Tahlia to dancing or sport. 

7.30pm: Have dinner. “Vicki’s cooking is magnificent … I’m not sure how she does it because she rarely follows a recipe,” he said. 

7.30 to 10.30pm: A small dose of TV and some reading before pulling up stumps for the day.