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From the cow to the cheese counter

The new Dairy Science degree programme is unique in Europe. This is why students from around the world come to Kiel University to complete their master's degree in Dairy Science.

view into the stable and the milking parlour
© istock/zmeel

The view into the stable and the milking parlour is par for the course for the Dairy Science students: the new study programme revolves around milk, where everything from animal welfare to milk production and processing, to marketing and value creation is taught.

Schleswig-Holstein is an agricultural state. Milk production, with around 4,000 farms and a total of 394,000 dairy cows (Schleswig-Holstein’s Agricultural Statistics), is one of the major economic sectors in agriculture. Nearly three million tonnes of milk were produced in Schleswig-Holstein in 2017. Given these figures, it is a logical consequence that science and research in the state are also especially interested in this foodstuff: for the 2017/2018 winter semester, Kiel University launched a new, international and completely English-speaking master's programme in Dairy Science, which enhances the Faculty of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences’ existing offers.

“Kiel University is the only university in Europe that offers Dairy Science as an independent degree programme,” explains programme coordinator Dr Angelika Häußermann. Universities such as Wageningen (Netherlands) and Aarhus (Denmark) may offer Dairy Science and Technology courses within various Master's programmes, but the focus on milk production is low.

The situation is different in Kiel: the programme in Dairy Science provides students with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary knowledge package that ranges from milk production and processing to marketing and value creation. It also includes business and ecological aspects of milk production, breeding, feeding, husbandry, health and well-being of dairy animals, together with milking, product quality, processing and numerous other topics. The lectures are also open to students of agricultural and nutritional sciences – they can be completed in the first year as part of the Dairy Science programme, compactly and without overlap, giving the second year of studies more flexibility or allowing a semester abroad to be planned.

It took ten years to develop the concept and for Schleswig-Holstein to officially recognise the programme. But the wait was worth it: the English-language lectures attract people from around the world to Kiel. “We started with seven students in the 2017/18 winter semester,” explains Häußermann, who works at the Chair of Agricultural Process Engineering. The university has already received 138 applications for the 20 available places for the 2018/19 winter semester. The application phase for the upcoming winter semester starts on February 1, 2019. The agricultural scientist also anticipates an increase in applicant numbers. Students from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, but also from directly within Schleswig-Holstein, who have a bachelor's or comparable degree in agricultural or livestock science, or in the veterinary field, come to Kiel to complete their master's degree in four semesters.

The career prospects for those undergoing this course are manifold and range from managing their own farms, with dairy cattle and crop cultivation, to employment in international companies. The prospects in milk and cheese dairies, in the animal feed industry, and in breeding, environmental consulting, research and development, agricultural consultancy or marketing are also good. “Our graduates are all-rounders and are sought after by industry – and what’s more, globally.” 

Author: Jennifer Ruske