Beef + Lamb New Zealand livestock geneticist Franziska Weik graduated with a doctorate degree in animal breeding and genetics late last year.
Her 300-page thesis "The genetic and phenotypic aspects of live weight, body condition score and reproductive success of beef cows in New Zealand" explores the maternal performance of beef cows on New Zealand hill country.
The goal of the thesis was to identify the optimum beef cow to thrive in New Zealand hill country.
Farmers could use the information from the thesis to evaluate the performance and productivity of their herd.
She uses the key insights from her thesis in her role at Beef + Lamb.
"It is exciting to be contributing to the future of the industry."
Dr Weik was born and raised in Germany, a city girl with limited exposure to rural life.
This all changed during a gap year in New Zealand after finishing high school.
"I’m a townie. I grew up in the city and had no connection to agriculture and a career in agriculture was never on my radar."
Aged 19, she spent her first nine months in New Zealand, working as an au pair on a sheep and beef farm near Ranfurly.
Then she got more au pair work on two more sheep and beef farms in the South.
The jobs evolved from childcare to farm work including "all the fun stuff", such as mustering livestock.
"I found it exciting because it was so different ... I fell in love with agriculture."
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in Bonn and a master’s degree in animal science in Hohenheim near Stuttgart.
While she was studying in Germany, New Zealand was always on her mind
"I never stopped thinking about New Zealand. New Zealand was what got me interested in agriculture and I was always keen to come back and work."
She returned to New Zealand in April 2019 to study a doctorate degree.
The study was funded by Massey University via a scholarship.
For most of her study, she was working part-time as a researcher for agricultural consulting company AbacusBio in Dunedin.
During her last year of study, she began working part-time as a livestock geneticist at Beef + Lamb in September 2022.
A month later, she began working part-time as a shepherd at Pāmu’s Thornicroft Station, near Mahinerangi.
"It really helped me understand how the annual cycle of a sheep, beef and deer farm works and it was good to see the challenges farmers’ face and the opportunities available on the farm."
When she finished working at Thornicroft Station in August last year, she was employed full time at Beef + Lamb, as part of the Informing New Zealand Beef programme.
She enjoyed living in New Zealand and planned to become a resident.
"I feel like I have two homes now."