Wetenschap - 6 februari 1997

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MSc student carries off first prizes
Last Thursday, January 30, the Van der Plas prize was awarded to Tashi Samdup at the MSc graduation ceremony. The student from Bhutan can look back on a successful stay in Wageningen. Besides the award, he gained a distinction for his MSc degree in Animal Science, and also won the poster award for the best poster presentation of the contents and conclusions of research carried out for an MSc thesis
Although he is a very modest person, Tashi Samdup has reason to be happy this week. Besides the two awards and a fruitful study period behind him, he is looking forward to returning home. Only two aspects could possibly still leave room for improvement. Tashi, sleep more and smoke less, was the friendly advice of Professor Martin Verstegen of the Department of Animal Breeding. For the rest Samdup won nothing but praise during the last three days of his stay in Wageningen. The jury report for the Van der Plas award reads: Samdup has combined the traditional approach of evaluating crossbreeding with a systems approach. He included the impact of crossbreeding at farm level and the consequences for the farm household. So he has added a new and badly needed dimension to the evaluation of crossbreeding programmes.
The effects of crossbreeding local tropical cattle with exotic dairy stock are usually evaluated at individual animal level in terms of milk production and fertility. Little research has been done on the impact of these programmes at the farm level. Samdup focused his research on the experimental farm and its bull breeding programme in the province of Bumthang, Bhutan. He works there as Officer in Charge. According to Samdup, crossbreeding of cattle in Bhutan is an activity which has grown over the past twenty years. However, he felt that both the practical applicability of breeding programmes as well as their impact at farm level needed further investigation
Risks
Samdup screened and analyzed all data on milk production and reproduction factors collected from the experimental farm over the past two decades. Four types of animals were included in the study: a local type and three Brown Swiss crossbred types. In addition, Samdup made an analysis of the financial flows and economic consequences for two farming systems, one with and one without crossbred cows. The results indicate that in the farm system with crossbred cows the household had a significantly higher farm income, due to higher productivity per animal, more efficient resource use and more efficient labour input
He also discovered, however, that crossbred animals with high levels of Brown Swiss inheritance (75%) perform the best in terms of milk production and reproduction, but are less adaptable at farm level, which is indicated by higher mortality rates than for the other crossbred types. Samdup feels that the importance of the strategy used by many subsistence farmers, whereby minimizing risks takes priority over maximizing production, cannot be emphasised enough. This has important repercussions for the kind of breeding strategies which are adopted at farm level
Although his study shows that crossbreeding has been a successful livestock intervention in general, he feels that there still is a need to study the long-term costs and benefits of crossbreeding strategies in ecological and economic terms. Furthermore, he recommends that before breeding strategies are implemented, an exercise like the one he carried out should be conducted on a larger scale, covering more villages, households and animals
Applicability
The cattle crossbreeding programme in Bumthang is supported by HELVETAS, a Swiss non-governmental development organization. This organization also provided the scholarship which enabled Samdup to follow an MSc course. Samdup explains that he was free to choose the university where he wanted to study. I requested information from numerous universities. In many of the programmes there seemed to be little room to flesh out your own ideas in the study. Besides, the gap between the course contents and their application to the situation in Bhutan seemed in many programmes to be unbridgeable. The stress on the thesis and the tropical orientation at WAU were decisive factors for choosing for Wageningen
Samdup explains that he wants to continue with PhD research, but not right away. First I want to go back home to work for some time to gain experience and new ideas. My ideas still need to take shape before I can decide on a focus for my PhD research.
Newsphoto
The MSc Blues
At the graduation party, Thursday January 30, Tini van Mensvoort, director of the Soil and Water MSc programme, reminded the new graduates of some of the problems they experienced in a song
15,000 kilometres far away from home
Lies a town called Wageningen, globally renown
For its University and for its high degrees,
For its nice facilities and for its hefty fees
And then you decide it is the place you want to go
,Cause there is no better MSc programme you know
So you send a letter but the answer gives unrest
Mrs Hermans writes that you must take an entrance test
(chorus)
And from your head to your shoes
You feel the MSc blues
Is it the right place to choose?
You have the MSc blues
You study mathematics from an old and yellowed book
But you totally forgot the way equations look
Supervisor brings exam, immediately you sweat
Oh my dear, it's difficult, I wish I was dead
Then you get the message that the entrance test youve passed
Ticket, visa, fellowship and you can go at last
And you make acquaintance with a tulip and a dike
And the next thing that you do is falling off your bike
(chorus)
Eagerly youre waiting for the time the courses start
But only a few days and you feel a sinking heart
Courses in Statistics and Programming in Pascal
That's not what you wanted, that's not what you like at all
Comes the month December and the temperature goes down
You are having nightmares and you start to dread this town
It's not just the winter that youre feeling cold and bleak
You will have to take five tests in only just one week
(chorus)
Times are getting better when the springtime comes around
Soon it's time for field work, and you will be homeward bound
You collect your data but discover with a shock
You are having what is called a dreadful writer's block
Now you have succeeded and you have your MSc
You will go back home and get a higher salary
But in just a few weeks youll experience a lack
You will start to miss this place, you want to go back

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