Cornell’s Dairy Fellows Program Has Another Active Year

Mike Van Amburgh, Julio Giordano, Jason Karszes, Tom Overton

As we write, we hope everyone is safe, healthy, and confidently managing through this challenging time in the world.   Once again, we would like to take a few moments to update you about the Cornell Dairy Fellows and Management Program.  We are grateful for the continued support of the Fellows Program in all forms and on a global basis.   The program remains strongly focused on the dairy industry and gaining exposure to all facets of the industry on a North American and global basis.  The courses within the program continue to evolve as the industry and businesses evolve and that presents new opportunities for training, course content and careers.

Digital agriculture, big data and machine learning are slowly creeping into the classroom and this opens up new areas of learning and engagement for our students.  Economic decision-making and integration with management and biological principles are still our primary strength and the focus of the program and course structure. However, as companies change focus, we are working to meet new expectations and demands for skills that were not as relevant just a few years ago.

Here are some updates about the dairy program:

The 2019 Dairy Challenge team headed to Tifton, GA, and had another second place showing and made us proud as a representative of the program.  The team was comprised of Benjamin Dye, Nolan Feldpausch, Simon Johnson and Christopher Sweeney.  As usual, the team was chosen by the Senior Fellows to represent the program in the contest.



2019 Dairy Challenge Team and coach: Mike Van Amburgh, Simon Johnson, Christopher Sweeney, Nolan Feldpausch and Benjamin Dye
  • Further, 15 students participated in the Dairy Challenge Academy, held in conjunction with the North American Dairy Challenge Contest in Tifton, GA in April.  The Academy provides the same exposure to the industry and dairy business evaluation as the contest team and make presentations with the help of industry advisors to help them through the process.



  • Another twenty-two Dairy Fellows participated in the Northeast Dairy Challenge Program in Rochester, NY in October, hosted by SUNY Alfred. Our seniors were able to interact with students from 15 other agricultural colleges in the Northeast in analyzing dairy farm businesses.
2019 Dairy Cattle Judging Team and coach, Colby Castle, Allison Herrick, Coach Kevin Ziemba, Meghan Coldwell and Paige Demun.
  • The Dairy Cattle Judging Team had another good run, coached by alumnus Kevin Ziemba. The team placed 9th and 4th in reasons at World Dairy Expo with Paige Demun placing 13th overall and Allison at 17th.
  • We would like to recognize some scholarship winners from the past year. The most prominent scholarship available to dairy oriented students is the Richard Popp Scholarship. As many of you know, the Popp Family created the scholarship to honor Dick’s memory and to be awarded to students that are engaged in dairy business and production. The award is given yearly and the 2019 award winners were Benjamin Dye, Nolan Feldpausch, Simon Johnson and Christopher Sweeney.   We are grateful to the Popp Family for their continued support of the program.
The Cornell Dairy Science Club photo in the sale ring for the NY Harvest Sale 2019. The sale averaged about $2,000.
  • We continue to encourage our students to participate in exchange programs. Programs and countries that our students have, or will, participate this year include New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, and Australia.   The CALS exchange program continues to grow and with our growing network in dairy, we are helping them make linkages to improve opportunities for our students around the world.   In addition, we had students participating in internships in New Zealand and Italy.
  • As the industry changes, our traditional fundraising approaches also change while, our engagement in activities has increased. To offset that we initiated a new fundraising idea and sold tickets for a couple to travel to Italy with the study trip.  The tickets were $100 each and the winner would have the chance to travel with the students, all cost covered except food or if unable to attend, take a $2,500 cash prize.   This year we sold 201 tickets and the winners, Dr. Gerald Mechor and Andy Schwytzer (2001 Fellows) could not attend, so they took the cash prize.   We want to thank everyone that participated as it greatly offset the costs of getting 86 students to Italy and China.  Keep an eye out in Fall 2021 as we will conduct the raffle for the next trip.
  • On even years, we have maintained our international trips with the help of friends and colleagues and this year the students participated in a 10 day trip to Italy or China. The underclassmen flew to Milan, and then toured the north side of the Po Valley, learning about Taleggio, Gorgonzola, and mozzarella di buffalo.  For something new for all of us, they went to Asiago to learn about true, alpine style cheeses.  Then they traveled to Parma for balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto production along with some cultural exposure.  A weekend in Rome was a big hit and the trip was capped off by a couple nights in Florence and some tours to sheep dairies and pecorino production.  The trips are developed with help from friends and colleagues in Italy, especially, Mauro Bianchessi, Federico Righi, Baldassare (Ubaldo) Fronte, Elena Bonfante and Martina Cortese.  We are very grateful to them for the continued time and support on behalf of the program.
The students, faculty and colleagues at the Caseificio Pennar in Asiago, Italy at the base of the Alps. They toured the plant and had the luxury of sampling the Asiago produced here and enjoyed a lunch of products produced in the region.
  • The upper class students flew to Beijing to meet and work with the faculty and students at China Agricultural University. We have a strong relationship with the University and the ability to partner and work with the students is what makes this trip worthwhile.  The students toured a few dairies and as groups of 2 to 3 CAU students and 3 to 4 CU students, worked to evaluate the dairies in a Fellows like evaluation and provide feedback to the managers.  At the same time, a panel of judges evaluated the teams for their ability to provide appropriate feedback and how well they worked as a team.  The students toured several processing and bottling plants, a feedlot and many cultural sites such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City.  We especially want to thank Dr. Zhijun Cao at CAU for his continued collaboration and support.  Luckily, they departed China before the virus spread, and the lockdown occurred.  We were all grateful for that outcome.
  • A small story was written about the trips by CALS Communications:
Students from China Agriculture University and Cornell University in Beijing

Editor’s note: This article is part of the ongoing fundraising efforts for the Fellows Program. Contributions in any amount may be made on line by visiting  When logging in to donate, please use an individual name and unique email address.  You will have the opportunity to provide the taxpayer or business name later in the process.

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