Abbigail Prins, a junior Animal Sciences student from Tulare, California, grew up in the dairy industry. Her family manufacturers dairy equipment like feed mixers, spreaders, and pushup blades. Prins showed dairy cows in 4-H and FFA, was a member of the team who won the California Junior Holstein Association Dairy Bowl for four straight years, and was a Dairy Princess, serving as an ambassador for the California Milk Advisory Board.
Prins was a good student in high school and had her choice of universities. She chose to come to WSU because of the welcoming atmosphere, affordability, and especially for the jobs and research opportunities that were available on campus for freshmen.
“I fell in love with the school from the moment I stepped onto campus!” Prins said. “Meeting with Val, my academic advisor, and a CAHNRS Student Ambassador, who answered questions, was an enlightening experience!”
Prins initially aimed toward a career in a nutrition- or genetics-related field in the dairy industry. She spent time working in Dr. Kris Johnson’s lab to learn about nutrition research and in Dr. Holly Neiberg’s lab performing genetic analyses supported by her CAHNRS Ignite Research scholarship. However, a Google search for an internship experience with calves totally changed her career path.
Her knowledge of the dairy industry was primarily based on her experience with cows, so she wanted to find an internship where she could learn about calf rearing. She also wanted to get experience on a large operation – one with more than 5,000 animals. Prins’ search found an internship working with dairy calves at Desertview, a subsidiary of Riverview, LLP, in Texico, New Mexico.
“When I was looking for a dairy or calf internship, Riverview popped up and after I looked through their website, I found myself aligned with their values and the many areas I could be involved in,” she said.
Prins began her internship at Desertview at the end of May 2020 and has been there ever since. With more than 20,000 calves at Desertview, Prins’ day starts early. At 3:30 am she begins mixing milk for the Watts machine, which dispenses water and milk to calves. She then makes milk for the bottle trailers, fills them with a manifold and puts on the nipples, and then helps deliver the bottles to the calves. After feeding is done, she pressure washes the mixing tanks and bottle trailers or cleans the nipple tubs, prepares for the afternoon shift, evaluates milk quality, and assesses inventory. It is hard work, but Prins finds the job extremely rewarding.
“Once I started working with calves, I found that is where my passion lies and is where my future career is,” Prins said. “I did spend two weeks on the dairy side of Desertview and within the first three days I knew that I wanted to be back with the calves as soon as possible!”
When it was clear that WSU was transitioning to virtual course delivery for Fall 2020 semester because of the pandemic, Prins asked her bosses at Desertview if there were any available jobs. They said, “Yes” and asked her when she could start. Since August, Prins has been working 55 to 60 hours a week and going to online WSU classes. The transition to online classes was difficult for Prins because she is taking a lot of lab classes and misses the hands-on learning experiences. Plus, she misses being on campus with her friends and participating in extracurricular activities, but she tries to maintain a positive attitude.
“Everything happens for a reason and I am very grateful to continue on the path of my education,”Prins said.
Prins recently got involved with the Prevention Team at Desertview. She works with 3- to 15-day old calves and ensures they are healthy. Because of this experience, she aspires to work in a position in which she prevents and treats disease in calves. She hopes to stay at Desertview for the foreseeable future while also finishing her Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences at WSU through online classes next year and graduate in May 2022.