The 2010 Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge was held in Batavia, New York, October 28-30. More than 110 students from 14 colleges and universities participated in the three-day event. During the Regional Dairy Challenge events, students are broken up into comingled-university teams of four or five. These teams, named after the sponsors of Dairy Challenge, are assigned an anonymous farm. Students assess all aspects of the farm, including feeding programs, facilities and equipment, financials and milking protocols. They then prepare a 20-minute presentation to give to a panel of judges and the host farm families. View "114 attend Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge" for more photos and results of the event.

The event concludes with an awards banquet. Teams are given platinum, gold or silver status, depending on how their findings compared to those of the judges.


This unique opportunity is a win-win situation. Students gain valuable on-farm evaluation and teamwork skills, and the host farms gain a fresh perspective on the management of their operation.

Those producers – Cory Totten of Hy-Hope Farms Inc. (below right), Steve Sondericker of Friendly Acres LLC (above left), and John Reynolds of Reyncrest Farms (above right) – shared their thoughts on the experience.

Q. What suggestion from the students are you most likely to implement on your operation?


A. TOTTEN: We’re most open to the students’ suggestions on bunk management. We’ll be looking at ways to expand the bunks and make them easier to manage.

SONDERICKER: A couple of the groups suggested regrouping and feeding strategies, particularly with our first calf-heifers. We’ve actually already talked with our nutritionist about implementing some of those ideas.

REYNOLDS: We’re looking at the suggestions that would be the least expensive and quickest to implement. The first one that comes to mind is tweaking our milking routine.


Q. What suggestion from the students are you least likely to implement on your operation?

A. TOTTEN: Probably the overcrowding. At this point, that’s just something we’re probably going to keep doing.

SONDERICKER: A few of the teams advised us to consider some major facility changes, like building a new parlor. We’re a ways-off from doing that.

REYNOLDS: Some of ideas were on the more expensive side, like building a barn. We’re definitely taking it into consideration, but it’s not something we’ll do overnight.

Q. What did you enjoy most about participating in this year’s Dairy Challenge event?

A. TOTTEN: We really enjoyed the opportunity to get the opinions of the kids, and it was nice having a new set of eyes on our farm. We would be willing to [be a host farm] again in a few years.

SONDERICKER: I told some of the kids what impressed me most was that they had two hours to come to the farm, develop short- and long-term goals, all while working with a group of students they probably never met before.

REYNOLDS: I loved the energy and enthusiasm of the kids. It was great to have a bunch of new eyes coming in and making an analysis. PD