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College Students Compete in Dairy Challenge

In a world of intense competition… one collegiate team… will fight for the title… of 2015 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge winner!

All right, so it doesn’t sound quite as cutthroat as the dramatic intro makes it out to be, but this annual competition is no joke. The national challenge was established in April 2002 as a management contest that would encompass all aspects of the dairy business. Although there are winners and awards given out at the end of the competition, the goal of the challenge is to educate students.

“Dairy Challenge is a premier dairy industry event, providing education, communication, and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel,” said Barry Putnam of Cargill Animal Nutrition and the Northeast Dairy Challenge committee.

For over 14 years, the challenge has provided almost 5,000 dairy students with the opportunity to prepare themselves for careers in the dairy industry, including dairy production and veterinary medicine. The competition takes place over three days and involves workshops, panel discussion, and Q&As.

Students convened in Syracuse, N.Y., from April 9–11 for the challenge this year. Day One of the competition began with a tour of Spring Hope Dairy in Clifton Springs, where students and specialists worked together at various learning stations ranging from milk protocols to feeding management. Later in the day, students listen to a panel discussion where industry professionals discuss their business and how to network with producers.

Day Two of the competition sends each college team out to an assigned farm, where the students use their knowledge to make educated suggestions about nutrition, milking procedures, animal health, and financial management.

It is on Day Three that students present their recommendations at the Career and Innovation Fair and have their command of the industry judged. A panel consisting of dairy producers, veterinarians, and agribusiness personnel are tasked with assessing each presentation and choosing winners.

Students tour Venture Farms in Tully, N.Y.

Students tour Venture Farms in Tully, N.Y.

This year the competition brought together students from about 38 colleges, over double the amount of participants that signed up for the challenge when it first started in 2002. First place awards were given to California Polytechnic State University, University of Guelph, University of Tennessee, and Washington State University. Second place winners were Cornell University, University of Illinois, Oregon State University, and Pennsylvania State University.

Jim Kran, an advisor for the Oregon State University team that placed Second, said that his students worked tirelessly to prepare for the randomly selected sections of competition.

“This was a huge accomplishment for them when you compare the size and volume of some of these other schools,” Krahn said. “And these girls worked hard at it. They put a lot of time in on their own.”

Three of the team members grew up on dairy farms, one had a previous internship at Land’O’Lakes, and another was a former dairy princess. Clearly these students live and breathe the dairy lifestyle.

Forget the NCAA and the rest of those mainstream collegiate competitions. Next year, tell your workplace to pool in for an Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge bracket instead.

Photo Credits: North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge

Jacqueline Roman

Jacqueline Roman is an Emerson student in Boston who never misses an opportunity to make a cheese pun and utilizes her social media accounts to post pictures of her pride and joy: cheeseboards. She has other interests but does not brie-lieve they are as gouda.