Who? Lieke Boekhorst, sixth year Animal Sciences student
What? Research into sustainable meat livestock systems
Where? Jaboticabal in Brazil
Why? 'I want to find out how livestock farms can be ecologically sustainable.
'I was told that I would have a room directly upon arrival in Brazil, but nothing had been arranged. Typically Brazilian! Luckily, I could stay in the home of a professor in the first month. Before starting work, I had to learn Portuguese. Nobody speaks English there, and certainly not the older generations. Even the professors cannot check the English publications of their students. The language barrier sometimes made me feel lonely in the first few weeks.
With my traineeship supervisor and a basic Portuguese handbook in my pocket, I visited livestock farms in the vicinity. Cows are often free to wander about, and caught and slaughtered four years down the road. Very inefficient indeed. In fact, during the dry season, the animals have to be given supplementary feed. The so-called 'feedlot' is a better system as it is like a big open-air barn which can accommodate up to twenty five thousand cows. It's easier to give the animals supplementary food in this way, and waste materials are confined to this area.
When my field work had ended, there was some uncertainty at first about whether I could stay on longer in Brazil. I had a visa for just a few months. My supervisor assured me that things would work out. Four days before my visa was due to expire, I asked if anything had been done. Nothing at all! So I had to leave the country. I celebrated Christmas in Buenos Aires, and after a short vacation in Argentina and Uruguay, I could return to Brazil for another 90 days. I celebrated New Year in Rio, feet in the beach sand.
That wasn't the only party I had; I went out often during my traineeship period in Brazil. In the beginning, there was a big hurdle: my inability to dance! My Dutch moves were being poked fun at for one whole evening, so I decided to follow a course in Forró, the national dance. Not being able to dance is a real turnoff for most Brazilian men. So it's a must-have for a nice evening out.'