The fourth annual Midwest Dairy Challenge, which ran Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, attracted 102 students from 13 universities and colleges to Merrillville, Indiana. A blizzard forced the group to forge new territory in the history of the Dairy Challenge.

For the first time ever, students analyzed operations based on virtual tours because weather prohibited transporting students to the contest farms for in-person tours.

“This year we not only challenged students to use their education to evaluate a dairy farm, we asked them to be flexible and creative in a real-world situation where the weather got the better of us,” said Contest Chair Kylie Daniels from ADM Alliance Nutrition Inc.

This year’s contest was held at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville, Indiana, and was hosted by Purdue University, as well as Linda Hodorff of Second Look Holsteins LLC, Eden, Wisconsin. After they arrived, students joined their new teammates and had the opportunity to experience the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure in Fair Oaks, Indiana. The next day, students participated in virtual farm tours of three Merrillville dairies.

Dairy #1
Sunny Ridge Dairy is a 730-cow dairy owned and operated by the Doug and Margaret Leman family of Francesville, Indiana. The primary management team is comprised of family members, with two generations actively involved in all aspects of the operation. The facilities are designed to accommodate future expansion to 1,600 milking cows.


Dairy #2
In Union Mills, Indiana, is the farm of Yon and Alice Lindborg, located on land that has been in the Lindborg family since the 1920s. After Yon and Alice both received their doctor of veterinary medicine degrees from Purdue University, they decided to return to the dairy operation. The farm consists of 250 cows, of which all are 100 percent registered, and 1,400 acres of cropland.

Dairy #3
The third dairy evaluated is owned and operated by David and Nancy Kleine of Cedar Lake, Indiana. Kleines are currently milking 80 cows with future plans of expanding to 120 cows. The entire herd has been A.I. bred since 1960 and about half are registered.

After the virtual tours, students met with their teams and developed questions for the herd owners. The herd owners were then put in touch with the students, either in person or via teleconference. They 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 their suggestions for improvement.

On the last day of the three-day event the student teams gave 20-minute presentations to the farm owners. This was followed by a question-and-answer session and a critique by the judges regarding their presentation and recommendations.

Susan Orth of Waupun, Wisconsin, from the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, offered leadership training sessions during the day. A career fair was held on the final day. PD