Grant Walling

Grant Walling

Driffield, East Yorkshire

Quite often, when Iapproach a problem, the science we need doesn't exist.

Grant uses biology in his work with pig breeding herds.

What do you do in your job?

I’m responsible for the genetic improvement programme of our pig breeding herds, and also the scientific research and development programme that we run both internally and with universities around the world.

How do you use science in your job?

The research programme uses genetics on a daily basis to help us decide which animals we breed from and which animals are sent into the food chain.

The research programme is wide ranging and includes many different types of science, including genetics, reproduction, nutrition, immunology, biology, statistics and meat science.

All of these have to be applied on working farms with live animals (which is more difficult and unpredictable than science performed in a laboratory).

If you had to summarise the impact your job has on everyday life – what would you say in two sentences?

Never take the food on your plate for granted, the availability and affordability of pork is because of the huge genetic gains we have made in improving production efficiency.

Without the genetic improvement more people in the world would go hungry and consumers would be spending a much larger percentage of their household income on food.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Identifying a real problem on a farm or in a pig population and setting off a group of researchers to find a solution. 

Quite often the science doesn’t even exist (at least in pigs as a species) when we start.  We therefore look to implement ideas from other species (I’ve sat in human fertility clinics when we wanted to learn about IVF) or other industries. 

The most satisfying part is using the cutting edge science solution to solve the real problem on farm.

What did you study at school?

I did A-levels in maths, biology and chemistry (and by today’s standards didn’t do particularly well).

What inspired you into your career?

I had some great teachers at secondary school which created huge enthusiasm in both maths and biology.  When you combine these disciplines the obvious subject is genetics.

What five top tips would you have for people wanting a job like yours?

  • Get practical work experience on farm; even though I don’t do farm work now, you’re much more credible if you understand the farm and life cycle
  • Don’t become too focused on a specific area of science.  Whilst genetics is important during the week I have to cover a broad set of subjects. Also remember statistics is needed to analyse any scientific data
  • Try to stay up to date with any current scientific developments, industry is competitive so understanding the latest technology is key
  • Never stop looking for the break into the industry, we all get rejected multiple times but you only need to be lucky once!

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