Penn State Team Places Second at North American Dairy Challenge

Posted: April 10, 2013

A team representing Penn State's Department of Animal Science placed second in evaluating Brand Dairy Farm at the event attended by 128 students from 32 colleges across North America.
Penn State Dairy Challenge Team, seated, from left: Dakota Grove and Jared Risser; Standing from left: Dr. Lisa Holden, Nathan Ulmer, Hannah Wentworth and Dr. Gabriella Varga.

Penn State Dairy Challenge Team, seated, from left: Dakota Grove and Jared Risser; Standing from left: Dr. Lisa Holden, Nathan Ulmer, Hannah Wentworth and Dr. Gabriella Varga.


Penn State's Dairy Challenge team placed second in evaluating Brand Dairy Farm, home of Ariwami Holsteins, Waterloo, IN at the Twelfth Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) held April 4-6 in Fort Wayne, IN, hosted by Michigan State University, the Ohio State University and Purdue University. One hundred and twenty-eight students from 32 colleges across the United States and Canada participated.

Students representing the Department of Animal Science on the team were Dakota Grove, Chambersburg; Jared Risser, Bainbridge; Nathan Ulmer, Bellefonte; and Hannah Wentworth, Quarryville. The team was coached by Lisa Holden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dairy and Animal Science, and Gabriella Varga, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Animal Science.

The NAIDC is a unique two-day competition for students representing dairy science programs at North American universities, enabling them to apply theory and learning to evaluate a real-world dairy farm, while working as part of a four-person team. The competition incorporates all facets of a working dairy business in a forum that's interactive, educational and fun.

Four Penn State students participated in the first-ever Dairy Challenge Academy, along with nearly 100 other students. The Dairy Challenge Academy was established as a way to expand opportunities, and included interactive seminars and table talks, as well as an on-farm forum and case study. Students were Faith Musser, Shippensburg, PA; Ariel Rassmussen, Bel Air, MD;  Brianne Rice, Chambersburg, PA; and Kristin Bigelow Williamsburg, PA.  Academy students evaluated Stockwell Farms, Inc. in Hudson, IL along with their designated Academy advisors.

Dr. Terry Etherton, Head of the Department of Animal Science, said, "I congratulate the students for their excellent showing in this highly competitive contest.  It is a tribute to their hard work, talent, and the outstanding preparation they have had through their coaches and their academic curriculum.  Their success highlights their understanding of the dairy industry, their ability to analyze and articulate their suggestions and their ability to work together."

In the contest, students receive information about a working dairy farm, including production and farm management data. The teams then evaluate the dairy through observation and interviews with the herd owner and/or manager, working together to analyze the farm-specific data and develop management recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management. On the second day of the contest, the team presents their recommendations to a panel of five dairy industry judges, fielding questions as well. Judges included dairy producers and industry experts in dairy finances, reproduction, nutrition and animal health.

The North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) was established as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. It strives to integrate a higher-learning atmosphere with practical application to help prepare students for careers in the dairy industry. Supported financially through generous donations by agribusinesses and coordinated by a volunteer board of directors, the first NAIDC was held in 2002.  NAIDC has helped train over 3000 students through the national contest and four regional contests conducted annually.

Penn State's team was supported, in part, by the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Department of Animal Science and the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge Fund as well as through contributions from the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association.

During the event, students visit with NAIDC sponsors for educational and recruitment opportunities. Sponsors include companies, organizations and dairy producers who are committed to cultivating tomorrow's dairy leaders. Their support encourages enhanced training and motivation of dairy students to be better prepared for the dairy industry's future, while allowing dairy science and business management academic programs to measure themselves against North America's best. Sponsors take an active role in the contest where they get to interact with some of North America's brightest students.

Other farms who hosted Dairy Challenge teams were: Bloom Dairy, Inc., Coldwater, MI; Preston Farms, Quincy, MI; and  Stockwell Farms, Inc., Hudson, IN.

The mission of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge 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.

For more information about participating teams and their placement at NAIDC or to become a sponsor of the program, visit