Spend a day with NSW DPI senior livestock researcher

TAKING STOCK: Dr John Wilkins is a senior livestock research officer with the NSW DPI in Wagga. Picture: Nikki Reynolds
TAKING STOCK: Dr John Wilkins is a senior livestock research officer with the NSW DPI in Wagga. Picture: Nikki Reynolds

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A DECISION to carve out a career in agriculture was made by Dr John Wilkins back in 1966.

Dr Wilkins is a senior livestock research officer with the NSW Department of Primary Industries based in Wagga.

Much of his work is centered around helping cattle producers to improve on-farm profits by making inroads in fertility.

In fact, a current project is looking at assessing ovulation in heifers by using ultrasound technology. 

This measurement and assessment of fertility ensures that producers can get the maximum amount of calves on the ground. 

6am: The day mostly starts early with a walk. This walk takes in some of the picturesque sites near Dr Wilkins Wagga home. 

7.30am: This is the ideal time to start going through emails and start the day at the NSW DPI site in Wagga. It also sets things up so that Dr Wilkins can get out into the field. 

10am: Work in the paddock, or in many instances the cattle yards, has usually well and truly started by this point in the day. Dr Wilkins said a current project involves driving to the property of a producer partner to assess ovulation in beef heifers. Ultrasound scanning technology is used to determine the ovulation of 12 to 15-month-old heifers. The aim is to look at overall herd fertility. 

1pm: “When I am working I take a tucker-box and will have lunch there,” Dr Wilkins said. Depending on how busy the day is he might take half an hour to enjoy a quick lunch break. This is also an ideal opportunity to talk to the producers who are involved in projects. 

5.30pm: A 5.30pm finish is not always possible and Dr Wilkins concedes that the day often stretches out until 6pm if he has been working at field sites. 

6pm: This time is used to head to the shop and prepare for dinner. Cooking is something that he enjoys. Dishes including seafood marinara, beef cheeks or lamb shanks are often on the menu at his place. Watching the ABC news also helps to complete the day. 

11pm: It’s time to call it a night after “batting on” and watching television for a while. 

An evolving industry: 

Dr Wilkins plans to retire from his role in October this year. During his interview with The Rural it was an opportunity to reflect on careers in the agricultural sector. 

He said working with producer partners, and other researchers at the NSW DPI was enjoyable. He said the rural industry was known for an ability to forge strong relationships.