From the quaint town of Orange, Connecticut, Cristian Mortali has been working on farms since he was thirteen years old. With his strong love for Jersey dairy cattle, combined with his appreciation and respect for local agriculture, this Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture (RHSA) student knows that dairy management is his goal for a future career. Here is what he said about his experiences as a RHSA student.
What attracted you to UConn? I was attracted to UConn because of the two-year RHSA program, the dairy management program and the dairy facilities on campus. In my town, anybody involved in agriculture went through RHSA or the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Many generations have come to UConn from Orange, and I wanted to continue that.
What is your major, and why did you choose it? I am an animal science major. I am focusing on dairy and livestock management. I started working on a farm at a young age, and, from then, it just progressed. I started by feeding beef cattle, and this turned into my love for Jersey dairy cattle and a desire to pursue a career path in dairy management.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? My most memorable experience is working at the Kellogg Dairy Center (KDC) right here on campus. I have learned a lot from the textbooks and classes, but I have learned so much more at the KDC. The KDC has given me hands-on experience, from milking to getting involved with surgeries. I have also met some great people and friends through my time at the KDC. I don’t think my UConn experience would have been the same without them.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I am the president of the UConn Dairy Club this year. I joined the club last year as a freshman and went to all of the activities, including a production herd event, which lasts for four days and nights at the Eastern States Exposition (the Big E). For this, we bring ten cows and eight heifers and demonstrate the milking process to the public to inform them about the dairy industry. I’ve also participated in the annual dairy show, the Canada trip and other dairy club events.
I am also a brother of Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR), the professional agriculture fraternity on campus. We’re a group of dedicated CAHNR students who get involved in the College and its events. The fraternity is interested in combining agriculture with community involvement.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? My biggest challenge was balancing my schoolwork with my work here on campus, Dairy Club tasks and my responsibilities outside of school. At home, I have Jersey heifers and beef cattle, so there is work to do there, as well.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate this May. I’m hoping to do something in dairy management, such as becoming an assistant farm manager or a technician on a farm. One day, I want to run my own dairy. I hope to stay in New England because I love its style of agriculture. It’s a small area and connected to the local community; there is nothing better than that!
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I can’t stress enough how great the RHSA program is and how well it fits my needs. A four-year degree wasn’t my thing, but the two-year program was a great balance for me. It gave me the hands-on and classroom experience all in a short amount of time.