Some majors you may not have considered included Viticulture and Enology (the study of growing grapes and making wines), Plant Sciences (very relevant to how modern farms care for their crops and maximize growth and production), and Hydrology (study of water and how to sustainably enhance water quantity and quality).
Another cool opportunity at UC Davis is the Barn Residency Program. Students live in dorms above one of the animal facilities on campus rent free for about 10 hours/week of hands on work with the animals. This is a great way to get relevant work experience and save on housing costs. One of my friends did this one year and lived above the Goat Barn and got to spend lots of time caring for adorable baby goats and got credit toward her Animal Science major. If you do not want to commit to the Barn Residency program, there are also many, many internships on campus related to caring for livestock.
Best of luck in your journey!
Meighan recommends the following next steps:
1. Agricultural engineers attempt to solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.
Agricultural engineers typically do the following:
Use computer software to design equipment, systems, or structures
Modify environmental factors that affect animal or crop production, such as airflow in a barn or runoff patterns on a field
Test equipment to ensure its safety and reliability
Oversee construction and production operations
Plan and work together with clients, contractors, consultants, and other engineers to ensure effective and desirable outcomes
Agricultural engineers work in farming, including aquaculture (farming of seafood), forestry, and food processing. They work on a wide variety of projects. For example, some agricultural engineers work to develop climate control systems that increase the comfort and productivity of livestock whereas others work to increase the storage capacity and efficiency of refrigeration. Many agricultural engineers attempt to develop better solutions for animal waste disposal. Those with computer programming skills work to integrate artificial intelligence and geospatial systems into agriculture. For example, they work to improve efficiency in fertilizer application or to automate harvesting systems.
2. Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.
Agricultural and food scientists typically do the following:
Conduct research and experiments to improve the productivity and sustainability of field crops and farm animals
Create new food products and develop new and better ways to process, package, and deliver them
Study the composition of soil as it relates to plant growth, and research ways to improve it
Communicate research findings to the scientific community, food producers, and the public
Travel between facilities to oversee the implementation of new projects
Agricultural and food scientists play an important role in maintaining and expanding the nation’s food supply. Many work in basic or applied research and development. Basic research seeks to understand the biological and chemical processes by which crops and livestock grow. Applied research seeks to discover ways to improve the quality, quantity, and safety of agricultural products.
Many agricultural and food scientists work with little supervision, forming their own hypotheses and developing their research methods. In addition, they often lead teams of technicians or students who help in their research. Agricultural and food scientists who are employed in private industry may need to travel between different worksites.
The following are types of agricultural and food scientists:
Animal scientists typically conduct research on domestic farm animals. With a focus on food production, they explore animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth, and development. They work to develop efficient ways to produce and process meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Animal scientists may crossbreed animals to make them more productive or improve other characteristics. They advise farmers on how to upgrade housing for animals, lower animal death rates, increase growth rates, or otherwise increase the quality and efficiency of livestock.
Food scientists and technologists use chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study the basic elements of food. They analyze the nutritional content of food, discover new food sources, and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. Food technologists generally work in product development, applying findings from food science research to develop new or better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging, and distributing food. Some food scientists use problem-solving techniques from nanotechnology—the science of manipulating matter on an atomic scale—to develop sensors that can detect contaminants in food. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food-processing areas to ensure that they are sanitary and meet waste management standards.
Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and advise food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production. They may develop ways to control pests and weeds.
Soil scientists examine the composition of soil, how it affects plant or crop growth, and how alternative soil treatments affect crop productivity. They develop methods of conserving and managing soil that farmers and forestry companies can use. Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, people trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.
Agricultural and food scientists in private industry commonly work for food production companies, farms, and processing plants. They may improve inspection standards or overall food quality. They spend their time in a laboratory, where they do tests and experiments, or in the field, where they take samples or assess overall conditions. Other agricultural and food scientists work for pharmaceutical companies, where they use biotechnology processes to develop drugs or other medical products. Some look for ways to process agricultural products into fuels, such as ethanol produced from corn.
At universities, agricultural and food scientists do research and investigate new methods of improving animal or soil health, nutrition, and other facets of food quality. They also write grants to organizations, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to get funding for their research. For more information on professors who teach agricultural and food science at universities, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.
In the federal government, agricultural and food scientists conduct research on animal safety and on methods of improving food and crop production. They spend most of their time conducting clinical trials or developing experiments on animal and plant subjects.
Agricultural and food scientists may eventually present their findings in peer-reviewed journals or other publications.
3. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers typically do the following:
Supervise all steps of crop production or ranging, including planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and herding
Make decisions about crops or livestock by evaluating factors such as market conditions, disease, soil conditions, and the availability of federal programs
Choose and buy supplies, such as seed, fertilizer, and farm machinery
Maintain farming equipment
Maintain farm facilities, such as water pipes, fences, and animal shelters
Serve as the sales agent for crops, livestock, and dairy products
Record financial, tax, production, and employee information
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers monitor the prices for their products. They use different strategies to protect themselves financially from unpredictable changes in the markets. For example, some farmers carefully plan the combination of crops they grow, so that if the price of one crop drops, they have enough income from another crop to make up for the loss. Farmers and ranchers also track disease and weather conditions, either or both of which may negatively impact crop yields or animal health. By planning ahead, farmers and ranchers may be able to store their crops or keep their livestock in order to take advantage of higher prices later in the year.
Some farmers choose to sell a portion of their goods directly to consumers through farmer’s markets or cooperatives to reduce their financial risk and to gain a larger share of the final price of their goods.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers negotiate with banks and other credit lenders to get financing, because they must buy seed, livestock, and equipment before they have products to sell.
Farmers and ranchers run farms that are primarily family owned. Those who do not own the land themselves may lease it from a landowner to operate as a working farm.
The size of the farm or range determines which tasks farmers and ranchers handle. Those who run small farms or ranges may do all tasks, including harvesting and inspecting the land, growing crops, and raising animals. In addition, they keep records, service machinery, and maintain buildings.
By contrast, farmers and ranchers who run large farms generally hire others—including agricultural workers—to help with physical work. Some of the workers on large farms are in nonfarm occupations, such as truck drivers, sales representatives, bookkeepers, and information technology specialists.
Farmers and ranchers follow improvements in animal breeding methods and seed science, choosing products that may increase output. Livestock and dairy farmers monitor and attend to the health of their herds, which may include assisting in births.
Agricultural managers take care of the day-to-day operations of one or more farms, ranches, nurseries, timber tracts, greenhouses, and other agricultural establishments for corporations, farmers, and owners who do not live and work on their farm or ranch.
Agricultural managers usually do not participate directly in production activities. Instead, they hire and supervise farm and livestock workers to do most of the daily production tasks.
Managers may determine budgets and decide how to store, transport, and sell crops. They also may oversee the maintenance of equipment and property.
The following are examples of types of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers:
Crop farmers and managers are responsible for all stages of plant growth, including planting, fertilizing, watering, and harvesting crops. These farmers may grow grain, fruits, vegetables, and other crops. After a harvest, they make sure that the crops are properly packaged and stored.
Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers, ranchers, and managers feed and care for animals, such as cows or chickens, in order to harvest meat, milk, or eggs. They keep livestock and poultry in barns, pens, and other farm buildings. These workers also may oversee animal breeding in order to maintain appropriate herd or flock size.
Nursery and greenhouse managers oversee the production of trees, shrubs, flowers, and plants (including turf) used for landscaping. In addition to applying pesticides and fertilizers to help plants grow, they often are responsible for keeping track of marketing activity and inventory.
Aquaculture farmers and managers raise fish and shellfish in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, and recirculating systems. They stock, feed, and maintain aquatic life used for food and recreational fishing.