The seventh Annual Midwest Dairy Challenge, which ran Feb. 9-11, attracted 68 students from 16 universities and colleges to the event hosted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
“The frigid temperatures presented a challenge to our students, but the outstanding group rose to the challenge to analyze the two dairies,” said Contest chair John Goeser from Vita Plus.
The Dairy Challenge is an innovative competition developed by industry and university professionals, which exposes students to opportunities in a vibrant dairy industry. This year is the tenth anniversary of the national contest, the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, which will be held March 31-April 2 in Hickory, North Carolina. The regional competitions allow students to gain experience in dairy analysis. Working in four- or five-person, mixed-university teams, students at the Midwest Dairy Challenge assessed all aspects of a working dairy farm and presented recommendations for improvement to a panel of judges and the participating farm families.
This year’s contest was held in Menomonie, Wisc. It drew students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, Michigan State University, the University of Illinois, South Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Kansas State University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Northeast Iowa Community College, UW Farm and Industry Short Course, Lakeshore Technical College, Chippewa Valley Technical College, and Northcentral Technical College.
After they arrived, students joined their new teammates and had the opportunity to learn from professionals in the dairy industry during a career panel. Panel members offered insights into careers in sales, consulting, dairy nutrition and reproduction. They were then allowed to get to know each other and to begin learning about the dairy they would be analyzing.
The next day, students were led on farm tours of two dairies located in the Menomonie area by Midwest Dairy Challenge Committee members.
After the tours, the students had time to meet with their teams and develop questions for the herd owners. The herd owners were then put in touch with the students and entertained questions from both students and judges about their farming operations. Armed with detailed production and financial paperwork from the farms, as well as their own observations, the participants developed a presentation about what they saw and suggestions for improvement. Friday was presentation day as the teams were given 20 minutes to offer their suggestions. This was followed by a question-and-answer session and a critique by the judges regarding their presentation and recommendations.
Throughout the event, participants had several opportunities to network with industry professionals who attended the event. Representatives from many of the platinum sponsors, including several who were looking to hire both interns and full-time employees, were also available for a career fair that was held on Friday.
Judges chose two teams as platinum winners, the contest’s highest distinction. The individuals who comprised these teams are: Wesley Vanderstappen – Northeast Iowa Community College; Danielle Brown – UW-Madison; Ethan Ulness – UW Farm and Industry Short Course; Melissa Schmitt – Iowa State University; Karen Anderson – University of Minnesota; Heather Lammers – Lakeshore Technical College; Eric Sneller – Michigan State University; Scott Felten – UW Farm and Industry Short Course; Joseph Ploeckelman – UW-River Falls.
The North American Dairy Challenge was established as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. It strives to incorporate a higher-learning atmosphere with practical application to help prepare students for dairy industry careers. Supported financially through generous donations by industry and coordinated by a volunteer board of directors, the first NAIDC was held in April 2002.