AUSTRALIA's efforts to increase the productivity and improve the health of south east Asian cattle continue with university students gaining valuable, practical experience handling livestock.
Ludsamee Bounmisai is studying a Bachelor of Livestock and Fisheries through Souphanouvong University, Luang Prabang in Laos, and is currently applying her classroom skills working with cattle.
"The time in the field has helped me gain first hand experience working with the Lao government and foreign aid projects on livestock health and production," Ludsamee said.
The 26 year old is working in a joint venture between Chick Olsson's nutrition company Four Season, the University of Sydney, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is focused on parasite control and improving nutrition for livestock using medicated molasses blocks.
Of particular concern in Laos is liver fluke, a parasitic flatworm that is a major problem in the landlocked south east Asian country.
The project aims to work with about 100 Laos farmers over the next two year.
Lao based project overseer Nichola Calvani said very few Lao students had the opportunity for practical experience during their degrees, especially female students.
"Ludsamee was excellent to have help us collect the final months data for the current block trial, diving straight into the practical, dirty work with no complaints," Ms Calvani said.
"She has worked very hard, learning how to collect faecal samples, give animals medicine, interview farmers and collect data on a large scale.
"Over five days she helped collect samples from over 200 animals and interview 37 farmers."
Ms Calvani said Ludsamee had also worked in the lab processing samples, where she has learnt parasitology diagnostic skills and how to handle large sample sizes.
"She has always been efficient and enthusiastic, regardless of the work required," Ms Calvani said.
The push to improve productivity and animal health is no small task. In Laos alone there are an estimated 1.6 million cattle and 775,000 buffalo.
Four Season Company was able to make student placements possible by covering costs including transport, accommodation and living expenses.
Four Season managing director Chick Olsson said it was important for young researchers to develop their practical skills and ensure women were properly represented in the workforce.
"There are so many young, talented students in Laos who are very keen to be involved in the livestock industry," Mr Olsson said.
"It great when we can help assure there is gender balance by making these in-field placement available."