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Penn State Animal Science Students Participate in North American Dairy Challenge

Posted: April 24, 2019

Eight students were part of the Dairy Challenge and the Dairy Challenge Academy, held in Tipton, GA.
Participants in the Dairy Challenge and Dairy Challenge Academy are, front, from left: Kelly Macrae, Shoshana Brody, Abbey Jantzi and Stephanie Takitch; back, Lisa Holden, Justin Ayers, Dylan Dietz, Michael Morgan, Zachary Curtis and Virginia Ishler

Participants in the Dairy Challenge and Dairy Challenge Academy are, front, from left: Kelly Macrae, Shoshana Brody, Abbey Jantzi and Stephanie Takitch; back, Lisa Holden, Justin Ayers, Dylan Dietz, Michael Morgan, Zachary Curtis and Virginia Ishler

Eight Animal Science students from Penn State’s Department of Animal Science traveled to Tipton, GA to compete in the 2019 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge and the Dairy Challenge Academy, March 28-30.

The Dairy Challenge offers students the opportunity to test their knowledge of dairy production in real-farm situations.  Hosted by the Southern Region, this year’s contest involved 240 students in four-member teams.

Additionally three Penn State students participated in the Dairy Challenge Academy working with advisors in learning how to evaluate and consult as they visited dairy farms.

Dairy Challenge team members were: Zachary Curtis, Waymart, PA; Dylan Dietz, McVeytown, PA; Abigail Jantzi, Clymer, NY; and Stephanie Takitch, Latrobe, PA.  Michael Morgan II, Shirleysburg, PA, competed on an Aggregate Team with students from other Universities. 

Academy students were: Justin Ayers, Annville, PA; Shoshana Brody, Baltimore, MD; and Kelly MacRae, Grove City, PA. 

Penn State students were coached by Lisa Holden, Associate Professor of Dairy Science and Virginia Ishler, Extension Specialist in Dairy. 

Dairy Challenge teams received complete production and farm management data on their farm and then visited the farm for an on-site evaluation.  Working together they 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.

Holden noted, “This is a unique competition in that it requires students to put their classroom knowledge to work while getting an in-depth look at successful dairy operations.” She stressed the value of having dairy farms that are willing to open their operations for the students to study and evaluate, including on the local and regional level as they prepare for the national competition.

Farms which were evaluated included: Leatherbrook Holsteins, LLC, Americus, GA; Barrington Dairy LLC, Montezuma, GA; Brooks Co Dairy LLC, Quitman, GA; and Schaapman Holsteins, Abbeville, GA.

All students visited Pecan Grove Dairy (formerly American Dairy Co), Baconton, GA and Grassy Flats Dairy (formerly Green Hill/Jumping Gully Dairy), Pavo, GA.

One of the most important aspects of the competition is the opportunity for these students, future industry leaders, to meet and network with industry professionals. This learning environment is promoted through a career and innovation fair, and 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, 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 18-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 6,800 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. The Dairy Academy is in its seventh year.