Penn State Animal Science Students Participate in Dairy Challenge

Posted: November 16, 2018

Nine Penn State students joined students from ten northeast colleges and two Canadian universities for the three-day educational competition hosted by the University of New Hampshire.

Nine students representing Penn State's Department of Animal Science participated in the 16th Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge, hosted Nov. 8-10 in Fairlee, VT, by the University of New Hampshire. The event is one of four regional events hosted around the country culminating in the 2019 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge to be held in April, 2019.

One hundred and nineteen students from ten northeast colleges and two Canadian universities participated in this innovative, three-day educational competition designed to prepare students for careers in the dairy industry.

Students worked in mixed-university teams of five students as they assessed all aspects of a working dairy farm, including facilities, nutrition, financials, reproduction and animal health. In a collaborative effort, each team developed a 20-minute presentation detailing their observations and recommendations which they then presented to a panel of professional judges as well as the farm family, sponsors and coaches. Teams were ranked based on how well their evaluations matched the judges' assessment of the dairy operation.

The nine Penn State students were: Justin Ayers, Annville, PA; Cayden Confer, Lamar, PA; Zack Curtis, Waymart, PA; Dylan Dietz; McVeytown, PA; Abigail Jantzi, Clymer, NY; Zane Merkel, Jonestown, PA; Michael Morgan, Shirleysburg, PA; Katie Sondericker, Attica, NY; and Stephanie Takitch, Latrobe, PA. Justin Ayers and Katie Sondericker were members of first place platinum teams while the other seven students were recognized for their participation.

Penn State students were coached by Lisa Holden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Animal Science and Virginia Ishler, Extension Specialist of Animal Science.

Students visited Tullando Farm, Oxford, NH where educational stations were set up, including one highlighting their eight milking robots. Here they also had the opportunity to interact with leaders in the industry, gaining insight into possible career paths when they graduate. They also visited Cabot Creamery Cooperative.

Twenty-four different teams visited four farms: Gamblin Dairy, Haverhill, NH; Harkdale Farms, Newbury, VT; and Newmont Farm, Fairlee, VT. Dairy Challenge organizers expressed deep appreciation to the farms who opened their farms and their record books so students could have this educational opportunity.

Travel funding came from the Pennsylvania Dairyman's Association and an endowment established by alumnus Clif Marshall to facilitate travel by teams from the Department.

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 15-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 2019 national competition and Dairy Challenge Academy will be in April, 2019. Four regional contests are held in late fall and winter; details are at