This was the second year I have been to the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge and the second year Proud to Dairy has provided shirts for the event. The caliber of students that attend and compete in this competition is a tribute to both the dairy industry and the coaches that help prepare the students for the competition, and that is why Proud to Dairy is ... well ... proud to be a part of the event.
This year’s event and coverage opportunities were unique in that I was able to see and be a part of things like I haven’t been in the past. For example, I interviewed three of the groups and got their analysis of the dairy and shared it with you, the reader, in a case study format (pg. 23).
I also pulled a judge aside on the farm for initial observations and heard the judges’ final presentation at the ending banquet. I was able to go and visit with a dairyman that was a host for a Western regional challenge a couple years ago and learn what it was like to have his/her dairy analyzed
And because I was in central California, I took a morning to visit one of our Proud members, and blogger extraordinaire, Barbara Martin. Her son was part of the Cal Poly team that was honored as a First Place Platinum team. You can read about my visit with Martin on proudtodairy.com
The impression that stuck out the most was how bright the students are that come to this event. The students had well-thought-out arguments and seemed to have the dairyman’s best interest at heart, not just a quick fix. Many of the students are well acquainted with the challenges dairymen are facing, because their parents or family members are facing it now. That’s why these students are primed to handle the challenges ahead of them; they are invested emotionally, gain a solid foundation from their professors and then turn experiences like Dairy Challenge into a springboard for the future.
“The thing I took away from Dairy Challenge was getting a lot of practical knowledge of farm evaluation,” says Janelle Hartzell from Penn State University. “That’s something I want to be able to do in the future in my career. Having this base to build from as I go through my career is something I think will be really helpful. We’ve visited a lot of farms practicing [for Dairy Challenge]. We’ve seen a lot of problems and how to fix them. And now getting to see farms out here, it really prepares you for after graduation.”
The real benefit is for the farms that participate in Dairy Challenge, whether it be the regional or national events. A dairyman is asked to participate and then they collect the records necessary so the judges and students can gain a better understanding of where the farm is at. Not only do these participating dairies have bright young minds offering them fresh perspective and new ideas, but they also get a team of industry professionals acting as judges that give them an evaluation and suggested improvements. The level of consultation would be worth a couple days to any dairyman that is serious about improving their dairy. PD
PHOTO: Janelle Hartzell, left, is sporting her Proud to Dairy shirt on Dairy 4. Photo by Ryan Curtis.