The Magic of Experiential Learning and Mentorship – Jerry Emmanuel

Jerry Emmanuel, BSc, MSc, is a Poultry Nutrition Specialist and Feed Sales Consultant with Cargill. He works with three poultry teams in the Western Canada district, consulting with customers to choose the right feed for optimum health and bird performance. Jerry is also highly involved with the Western Poultry Conference (WPC), both as a planning committee member and speaker. He was featured in the 2023 WPC where he presented a case study to attendees.

Jerry Emmanuel graduated from the U of A in 2000 with a MSc in Poultry Science and Poultry Barn Environment Management. After working as a Field Rep at Maple Leaf Foods from 2001-2011, he joined Cargill in 2011. 

Jerry entered the U of A with a desire to work with animals and hopes to go to vet school. That option faded as experiential learning experiences and inspiring poultry professors shifted his vision and revealed a whole new world of career possibilities. 

Please describe the moment when you realized that working in the poultry industry could be a very real career choice for you. 

The moment came about when I helped out with processing some broilers. It was technically my first year at the U of A, but I had already completed two years at Grant MacEwan. Dr. Frank Robinson approached his Animal Science 200 class to find out who would like to help with poultry processing for research and I volunteered. It was my first processing experience, and I was pretty excited about it but definitely not excited about the 7 am start.   

I laugh about it now, as during the processing, my job was the crop puller (removing the crop from the bird by hand). The staff and grad students were measuring the shank length of the legs, breast size, bird weights, and also looking at the ovaries of the hens. It was pretty interesting to find out that there was more going on than just putting this bird on the barbecue. There is some great research being done to improve bird performance to help producers.

A second important moment for me happened when Dr. Doug Korver held a student and nutrition/feed company meeting.  All of us students introduced ourselves formally and then we sat and had dinner with the industry reps. I sat with Cal Martin and others. I remember Cal especially, teaching me how grain dust is very explosive and how grain elevators and feed mills need a dust collector. To a city kid such as myself, this was amazing to learn. I knew I wanted to work one way or another in agriculture and this dinner and conversation showed me there was a potential career in poultry. 

Did experiential learning influence your decision to work in poultry? (Example, hands-on work in the poultry unit, or as part of your grad studies, or through an internship?) How?

Absolutely! The early morning broiler processing with the help of Frank Robinson had a huge influence on me. In addition, I was able to get a job as a summer student at the Poultry Research Center (PRC), which I did for two summers. 

PRC employment was my favorite summer job. I proudly say I came in unable to swing a hammer and, after 2 years, I was able to fix a car on my own! I learned so much!! My job at the PRC included feeding birds by hand, cleaning research pens and hand-picking eggs. I also learned how to euthanize birds and work with different equipment for the farm and research and, of course, how to avoid mean roosters.

I then went on for another two years to do my Masters in Poultry Research.Research. I enjoyed learning and helping with the research projects. The experience and fun I had on the farm along with the PRC staff encouraging me made it an easy decision to further my education. I did believe as well that there would be more career options with a master’s degree.

What teachers or poultry community mentors influenced your decision to work in poultry? What advice would you share based on your experience?

I can’t thank them enough; Dr. Frank Robinson, Dr. Doug Korver, Dr. John Feddes, Gary Golby (former Champions feed owner) and the Poultry Research Center staff. 

My best advice to give would be to do the best you can in class. To really solidify your understanding of poultry, I would strongly encourage people who have an interest to work directly with the birds and the people involved in the industry. You can do this through an internship or as a farm hand, or as a volunteer, etc. Gaining experience first hand is huge!  GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY!

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