Collegiate dairy students – 240 in total – from 29 different states and Canadian provinces traveled to Georgia for the 18th annual Dairy Challenge.® This trip to the Southern Region of the dairy industry was a great chance for students to put to use all they have learned about analyzing dairy farms and learn new things about this unique region for dairy.
Tifton, Georgia, was home base for the 2019 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC) held March 28th to the 30th, with eight area dairies participating in the educational event. Dairy students from 44 colleges worked to improve their dairy management and communication skills, networked with other students, and explored industry careers.
“Dairy Challenge represents all that is great about the dairy industry, as we see dairy producers, universities and industry professionals all come together to provide these students – the next generation – be prepared to enter the workforce and make great contributions to dairy’s future,” explained Dr. Maurice Eastridge, Professor and Extensions Dairy Specialist at The Ohio State University and NAIDC Board Chairperson.
Dairy Challenge is a unique, real-world experience where dairy students work as a team and apply their college coursework to evaluate and provide solutions for an operating dairy farm. In Tifton, two programs ran concurrently – the 18th annual Dairy Challenge contest and the seventh annual Dairy Challenge Academy. The events were coordinated by the NAIDC Board of Directors and the Southern Regional planning committee.
The Academy added another 7 schools to the event, providing interactive training for 96 students from four-year universities or two-year dairy programs. Academy participants were divided into smaller groups including students from various schools, and dairy industry volunteers worked as advisors to coach these less-experienced Academy participants as they assessed the dairy and developed recommendations.
Dairy Challenge Applies Learning to a Real-world Dairy
Over its 18-year history, Dairy Challenge has helped more than 6,900 students prepare for careers in the dairy industry, dairy production and veterinary medicine.
Day two began with the on-farm analysis, with all students having just two hours to visit their assigned dairy and witness the dairy’s operations. After a question & answer session with the farm owners and advisors, the student teams developed specific recommendations on the areas they thought the dairy should focus on to make the greatest impact on improving their business. These suggestions are accompanied by an economic assessment of their recommendations.
On Day Three, students presented their assessments and conclusions to the judging panel, visited with sponsors at the Career and Innovation Fair, and learned through dairy technology presentations from top Dairy Challenge sponsors. These talks were presented by:
- Melissa Redd, Regional Lending Manager, AgGeorgia Farm Credit – “More than a Loan, A Relationship”
- Jorin Ouwinga, Dairy Specialist, Land O’Lakes, Inc. – “Don’t Limit Your Expectations”
- Josh Hushon, US Dairy Marketing Communications Lead, Cargill – “Farm Decision Making: Unlocking the Power of Data and Analytics”
- Kristi Fielder, Director of Production, URUS – “Inside the Bull Barn: The Other Side of the A.I. Industry”
- Jack Hippen, North American and EU Sales Director, ST Genetics – “Preparing for the Real World in Agriculture”
- Dave Whitlock, Regional Sales Manager Southern Region, Premier Select Sires – “Don’t Strive to Survive Through Change but Rather Thrive with Change.”
Eight College Teams Earn Top Awards
At Saturday evening’s banquet, the following contest teams and students were announced as First Place winners, with each student receiving a $200 scholarship.
- California Polytechnic State University: Hank DeVries, Alexandra Gambonini, Elisabeth Regusci, Elise Regusci, Coached by David Vagnoni
- Michigan State University: Monika Dziuba, Lauren Heberling, Ariana Negreiro, Jared Sanderson, Coached by Roger Thompson
- Texas A&M University: Haley Hill, John Leibham, Marta Pulfer, William Wolf, Coached by Sushil Paudyal
- Washington State University: Olivia Brockhaus, Colton Bunyard, Morgan Hawley, Taylor Wilson, Coached by John Swain
Teams and students earning Second Place and $100 student scholarships include:
- University of Wisconsin – Madison: Rachel Gerbitz, Zachary Lensmire, Riley Miller, Danielle Warmka, Coached by Ted Halbach and Dave Combs
- University of Guelph: Julie French, Lauren Westerlaken, David Westerveld, Jenna Wight, Coached by Trevor DeVries and Matt Groen
- Cornell University: Benjamin Dye, Nolan Feldpausch, Simon Johnson, Christopher Sweeney, Coached by Mike Van Amburgh
- SUNY Morrisville: Austin Graham, Janet Hanehan, Kayla Heineman, Katherine Schultes, Coached by Steve Mooney
All Dairy Challenge contest participants received a lifetime membership to Dairy Shrine.
Total Industry Effort
Six dairy farms opened their farms for analysis and in exchange received a wealth of ideas from students and judges. Host farms for the 2019 Dairy Challenge were:
- Leatherbrook Holsteins LLC, Americus, GA
- Barrington Dairy LLC, Montezuma, GA
- BrooksCo Dairy LLC, Quitman, GA
- Schaapman Holsteins, Abbeville, GA
- Highbrighton Dairy, Montezuma, GA
- WestBrook Dairy, Dixie, GA
- Pecan Grove Dairy, Baconton, GA
- Grassy Flats Dairy LLC, Pavo, GA
“On behalf of all the students and organizers, we sincerely thank the hundreds of individuals and organizations that made this event possible,” said Jillian Bolan, Co-Chair of the event. “We look forward to interacting with these students as they continue onto careers as dairy owners, managers, consultants and the many other support roles that make dairy possible.”
NAIDC is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. Over its 18-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 6,900 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. The next national event will be hosted in Green Bay, Wisconsin on March 26-28, 2020. Four regional events will be held in late fall and winter; details are at www.dairychallenge.org.