Penn State Students Perform Well at Northeast Dairy Challenge

Posted: November 19, 2012

Seven Animal Science students received recognition as members of platinum, gold and silver teams after evaluating dairy operations at the event held in Maine.

While much of the Northeast was starting to recover from Hurricane Sandy, the weather was warm and sunny in Waterville, Maine for the 10th Annual Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge. Hosted by the University of Maine, the event drew 106 students from 10 colleges in the Northeast and Canada.

The three day event, held November 1-3, allowed students to work in teams of four or five with teammates being students from various universities attending the event. Along with meeting their new team members, students received information about their host farms on Thursday evening, and then boarded buses early Friday morning to complete their whole farm evaluations. 

Teams were ranked as platinum, gold or silver based on how well their evaluations matched the judges' evaluations of the dairy operation. Penn State students who were members of platinum teams were Hannah Wentworth, Quarryville, PA and Dakota Grove, Chambersburg, PA. Penn State students ranked as gold level teams included:  Caine Mitchell, Venus, PA and Jared Risser, Bainbridge, PA. Students on silver level teams included:  Joel Smith, Palmyra, PA, Hannah Shabanowitz, Lewisburg, PA and Nathan Ulmer, Bellefonte, PA.   

Students were coached by Lisa Holden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dairy and Animal Science, and Gabriella Varga, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Animal Science.

This year's host farms in Maine included:  Stonyvale Farms, Exeter, Piper Hill Dairy, Embden, and The Wright Place, Clinton. Host farms opened their barns, farms and books to the Dairy Challenge students. Teams were asked to prepare a presentation for Saturday that included strengths, weaknesses and key recommendations or opportunities for successes across all areas of the farm including:  nutrition, facilities, reproduction, animal health, crop and feed management and financial management. All teams gave their 20 minute presentation to a panel of judges. 

All students had the opportunity to participate in educational workshops at Flood Brothers Farm in Waterville, ME as well as attend an industry career fair. Team-building and fun activities were held throughout the weekend to encourage networking among students and sponsors.

Attendees contributed $1,100 to support relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy, resulting in a matching donation from Cargill Animal Nutrition of $1,100. The entire $2,200 donation has been made to American Red Cross on behalf of Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge.

"Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath," explained Barry Putnam, dairy sales leader for Cargill Animal Nutrition and volunteer with Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge. "Since the Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge was held just after Hurricane Sandy's destruction of much of the east coast, students and other supporters of Dairy Challenge were eager to help those in need."

The regional event is part of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) which was established as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. It strives to incorporate a higher-learning atmosphere with practical application to help prepare students for careers in the dairy industry. The mission of NAIDC is to facilitate education, communication and an exchange of ideas among students, agribusiness, dairy producers and universities that enhances the development of the dairy industry and its leaders. 

Next year's Northeast Regional event will be held in Plattsburgh, NY and will be hosted by Miner Institute and the McGill University.  For more information about next year's contest, please contact Wanda Emerich of Miner Institute at You may also contact industry chair Brett Denny of Vermont DHIA at To become a sponsor, contact Jan Bitter of Farm Credit East at 800-392-3276 or You can connect to Dairy Challenge on Facebook or find more information on the website at: