Posted: April 24, 2018

Four Penn State students competed as a team in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge in Visalia, California along with students from 37 other universities across North American. In addition, two students participated in the Dairy Challenge Academy which operated simultaneously with the contest.

The 2018 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge and the Dairy Challenge Academy brought together the best and the brightest collegiate dairy science students from around the country April 12-14 in Visalia, CA, to test their knowledge of dairy production as they evaluated four sites. Designed as a comprehensive way to employ students' knowledge in real-farm situations, the contest hosted 36 four-member teams and 96 academy students. Penn State Animal Science participants included four team members and two academy students. Team members were: Greg Kowalewski, Forest City, PA; Alexis Ream, Markleton, PA; Emma Brenengen, Middletown, MD; and Mike Barton, Jr Ancramdale, NY. They evaluated Van Beek Brothers Dairy in Tipton, CA. Academy students Zane Itle, Loretto, PA and Ian Miller, Ebensburg, PA, evaluated Double Oak Dairy in Visalia, CA, a Jersey operation. Penn State students were coached by Lisa Holden, Associate Professor of Dairy Science and Virginia Ishler, Extension Specialist in Dairy.
Teams received complete production and farm management data on their farm and then visited the farm for an on-site evaluation. They then developed a comprehensive plan on each aspect of the operation, from nutrition to reproduction to animal health to financial management. Each team prepared a presentation for the panel of judges, and fielded questions about their analysis and recommendations. Dairy Academy students worked with advisors in learning how to evaluate and consult as they visited dairy farms. All students appreciated the unique opportunity provided by Dairy Challenge. Kowalewski said, "Having the opportunity to travel across the country and compete in Dairy Challenge was an incredible experience. Learning how to analyze and present strengths and opportunities for a farm will better prepare me for my future in the dairy industry." Brenengen noted, "Being part of the Dairy Challenge Team helped me to learn so much about running efficient and productive dairy operations while also providing me the opportunity to see the diverse agricultural industry in California. It was an incredible experience." Holden added, "This competition is invaluable as it offers students a chance to put their classroom knowledge to work and to gain an in-depth look at successful dairy operations." She expressed deep appreciation to those in the dairy industry who support the opportunity, and to the dairy farms that willingly open their operations for evaluation. Prior to evaluating their farms for the Dairy Challenge and the Academy, all students toured the Maddox Dairy in Riverview, CA, where there were five stations for students to rotate through. Maddox Dairy milks 3,300 cows and is using embryo transfer and in-vitro fertilization program in conjunction with Ru-An Dairy nearby. Networking and meeting industry professionals are an important part of the competition for the future industry leaders, and there is a career and innovation fair as well as seminars. Penn State's participation in the Dairy Challenge and the Academy is made possible by partial funding by the Office of Undergraduate Education in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, the Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association, the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, Center for Dairy Excellence and by an endowment established by Department of Animal Science alumnus Clifton Marshall. NAIDC's 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 17-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 5,000 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. The Dairy Academy is in its sixth year.

Submitted by Lisa Holden (