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Penn State Hosts Northeast Dairy Challenge

Posted: October 28, 2015

Eight Penn State students were part of the 109 students from 12 universities who competed in the 13th annual Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge in State College.
From left: Sarah Meyers, mentor from AgChoice Farm Credit, and students Breana Scribner of SUNY Cobleskill, Jaylene Lesher of Penn State University and Kohlton Butler of Vermont Technical College take notes on the heifer facilities at Ti Glo Farm.

From left: Sarah Meyers, mentor from AgChoice Farm Credit, and students Breana Scribner of SUNY Cobleskill, Jaylene Lesher of Penn State University and Kohlton Butler of Vermont Technical College take notes on the heifer facilities at Ti Glo Farm.

Penn State University's Department of Animal Science welcomed 109 students from 10 northeastern U.S. and two Canadian universities to State College, October 22-24, 2015 for the 13th annual Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge, an innovative, three-day educational competition designed to prepare students for careers in the dairy industry.

Eight Penn State students were assigned with teammates from various universities to work in teams of four of five. Contestants assessed all aspects of a working dairy farm, including facilities, nutrition, financials, reproduction, animal health and much more. Students collaborated on a 20-minute team presentation that detailed their observations and suggestions to a panel of professional judges and participating farm families. Teams were ranked based on how well their evaluations matched the judges' assessment of the dairy operation.

First place teams, which were named after top sponsors of the Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge, included: Holtz-Nelson Dairy Consultants, LLC, Semex and Merck Animal Health.

Those representing Penn State included: Greyson Smith and Rebecca Warriner on second place teams as well as Carli Carolei, Amber Gabel, Hannah Jackson, Jaylene Lesher, Denille Pingrey, and Caitlyn Pool.

Farms evaluated at the 2015 competition included Schrack Farms in Loganton, PA, Clinton County; Ti Glo Farm in Howard, PA, Centre County and Willow Behrer Farms in Spruce Creek, PA, Huntingdon County. All teams also participated in educational workshops at Evergreen Farms in Spruce Creek presented by industry leaders. Team-building and fun activities were held throughout the weekend to encourage networking among students and dairy industry sponsors, creating the opportunity to learn about potential career opportunities.

Penn State students were coached by Lisa Holden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dairy Science, Virginia Ishler, Extension Specialist of Dairy Science, and Dr. Gabriella Varga, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Animal Science.

Holden, who coordinated the event, said, "We are deeply grateful to the farms who open their facilities and share their records and management practices with the students to give them actual situations to evaluate. Dairy Challenge presents valuable learning opportunities for students to showcase what they have learned and how it fits into practical use."

Attendees were encouraged to donate non-perishable food items which were contributed to the State College Food Bank. Students, sponsors and volunteers collected more than 300 food items and $230.

The objective of Dairy Challenge is to create a real-life situation that stresses the importance of teamwork and professionalism. Industry chair Suzanne Demeester of Novus International, Inc. explained, "Not only does the Dairy Challenge teach technical knowledge, it excels in helping students develop people skills."

The 2016 Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge will be hosted by SUNY Cobleskill. For more information about next year's contest, please contact Kim Tarvis at tarviskm@cobleskill.edu. To become a sponsor, contact Jan Bitter of Farm Credit East at 800-392-3276 or jan.bitter@farmcrediteast.com. All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Contributing sponsor listings are available at www.dairychallenge.org.

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 14-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 2016 national competition and Dairy Challenge Academy will be April 7-9 in Syracuse, NY. Four regional contests are held in late fall and winter; details are at www.dairychallenge.org