Posted: April 6, 2017

Six Animal Science students competed in the Dairy Challenge and the Dairy Challenge Academy in Visalia, CA.

From left: Matthew Leise, Chase Cashell, Toni Smith (front), Reuben Hicks, Alton Rudgers and Josh Brubaker.

From left: Matthew Leise, Chase Cashell, Toni Smith (front), Reuben Hicks, Alton Rudgers and Josh Brubaker.

Six Penn State Animal Science students joined nearly 250 future dairy industry leaders for the 2017 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge and the Dairy Challenge Academy held March 30-April 1 in Visalia, CA. Thirty-six teams from 34 universities competed across four dairy farms.

Nine teams per farm received information about the farm, visited the dairy and asked questions of the dairy owner before preparing their presentation for a panel of five judges.

In addition to the Dairy Challenge contest, the Dairy Challenge Academy allows student from a wide range of dairy backgrounds to work in a team of students with two advisors to evaluate a dairy, make presentations of their findings and get feedback from the dairy producer and the Academy advisors.

The Penn State team of Chase Cashell, Chambersburg, PA; Matthew Leise, Greenville, PA; Alton Rudgers, Attica, NY; and Toni Smith, Reynoldsville, PA evaluated El Monte Dairy owned and operated by Art and Barb Van Beek in Tipton, CA.

Academy students Josh Brubaker, Mount Joy, PA and Reuben Hicks, Dubois, PA evaluated, respectively, Dairyland Farms in Tipton, CA and Fern Oaks Dairy in Tulare, CA.

Networking and meeting industry professionals are an important part of the competition. Matthew Leise, senior Animal Science major, said, "Dairy Challenge was an exceptional opportunity to network with other students and dairy professionals. Being able to see and learn about dairy operations in another part of the country was extremely valuable."

Junior Animal Science major Reuben Hicks added, "The Dairy Challenge Academy was a great opportunity to see how different farms work and what possible improvements could be made. It was a wonderful chance to learn new things and a really fun experience overall."

Prior to evaluating their farms for the Dairy Challenge and the Academy, all students had the opportunity to tour Airoso Dairy in Pixley, CA, a 3,000 cow dairy that utilizes solar panels for generating electricity and has a long history of breeding and showing genetically superior Holsteins. Students moved from station to station at the farm to learn more about reproduction, cow comfort, milking management, and feed management.

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

Holden said, "This competition offers a unique way for students to put their classroom knowledge to work with real life experience as they get an in-depth look at successful dairy operations. We deeply appreciate the support of so many in the dairy industry who make this valuable opportunity possible."

Dairy Challenge and Academy students receive partial funding by the Office of Undergraduate Education in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, the Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association, Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, Center for Dairy Excellence and by an endowment established by Department of Animal Science alumnus Clifton Marshall to help defray travel costs.

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 16-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 Dairy Academy is in its fifth year.