I come from Portugal, where I actually lived most of my life. I just moved to The Netherlands four years ago. So, I was born and raised on a dairy farm, near Oporto, in the North of Portugal. It’s a family owned business. So, since a young age I had contact with calves and cows. It became quite clear for me around my 15th or 16th birthday that dairy nutrition was something that I was really interested in.
So, I just pursued my studies in a university also, in the North of the country in what we call University of Trás-os-montes e Alto Douro (also known as UTAD), and there I obtained my Bachelors and my Masters. And even during my Masters, I already started to touch the effects of pre-weaning diets on later life performance of cows. And that was my entrance card to work within Nutreco.
I saw a tremendous progression in milk production of our own herd. So, at earlier stages cows would yield approximately 6,000 litres of milk per lactation, and when I left the farm three years ago, our average of milk production was over 10,000 litres per cow. So, just in, I would say, 16 years that I can actually remember very well about the milk production of our herd, we just got that huge milk production response.
A lot of things changed on the farm. There was also a tremendous genetic improvement in our herd. But also, the environmental forefront changed completely. New stables, and I always admired all those feed advisors that were going to the farm and giving advice on how to improve the nutrition of our herd. And I was always curious to know more about that topic and be around when they were having those discussions. So, I think that’s maybe the reason why I got so interested in animal nutrition.
Now, on top of that I’m also passionate about biology and to understand more and more about those biological systems. I’m curious and I see animal nutrition also as a very interesting field in science, and where we can create direct impact on the well-being of farmers and on their herds.
I strongly believe in prevention of problems more than intervention in case of disease outbreak, and I think with good management practices and good nutrition (of course, there are still some cases where even the management practices or nutrition cannot alone cope with all of those challenges in the herd), but in most of the cases, that’s enough to keep a good, healthy level at your herd, or at your production facility. Independently if we are talking about cows, pigs, poultry or whatever production system you have.
I’m working at the research group, within Nutreco R & D. I’m part of this big project that is LifeStart. I don’t think that the project is going to be just a project for just the next three to four years. I strongly believe that it’s going to be a research field for the next 10 to 15 years.