Spotlight - Kerst Stelwagen

Name: Kerst Stelwagen
Institution: SciLactis Ltd.
Role with Journal of Dairy Science (JDS): Editor, Invited Reviews section

Can you tell us a bit about your background, and what your current research is focused on?
I was born and raised on a dairy farm in the Netherlands and I immigrated to Canada after my undergraduate training. There I worked on dairy farms for a few years before doing my MS and PhD in ruminant nutrition and lactational physiology at the University of Guelph. Then I moved to New Zealand to do a postdoc and never really left. I worked for nearly 20 years as a dairy scientist and science manager at AgResearch (the “USDA” of New Zealand), before setting up my own niche consultancy business (SciLactis Ltd.), providing R&D support to organizations and companies in the agritech and value-added food sectors. I still manage to do some applied research, and this is mostly in the ruminant nutrition and production areas.

What advice do you have for grad students or other early-career scientists submitting their first manuscripts? What are common oversights you see?

Carefully read the Instructions to Authors for the journal you want to publish in—a journal manuscript is not the same as a thesis chapter.

Be concise and only include relevant data—not every table or figure from your thesis warrants publication.

Make sure that your academic supervisor(s) proofread your manuscript before you submit and don’t get discouraged by a long list of reviewers’ comments—this is normal, even for senior authors!

Why should authors publish in JDS?
Why not? JDS has an excellent international reputation and a broad reach and recognition for anything to do with dairy. Its impact factor continues to increase.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing the dairy industry, and how is JDS part of the solution?
Firstly, we must stop referring to the dairy sector as the “dairy industry”—this has too many negative connotations in the consumer’s mind (i.e., factory farming or industrial farming).

The overarching biggest challenge is the evolving perception of the consumer buying dairy products, be it related to animal welfare issues (e.g., cow–calf separation), environmental issues (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions), dairy alternatives (e.g., soy “milk”), or anything else.

The fact that such perceptions are often uninformed is irrelevant. If the consumer stops buying dairy products, for whatever reason, this will hurt the entire dairy sector on both sides of the farm gate.

JDS can help by continuing to publish high-quality independent peer-reviewed research that can be used to help address consumer concerns based on facts and help educate the consumer.