I have been a part of the Jerome, Idaho, FFA chapter since I started high school. The first thing that got me interested in this student-led organization was the Dairy Foods Career Development Event (CDE). Despite my dislike for science and original lack of interest in the dairy industry, I immediately fell in love with this CDE.

I competed at the district and state level twice. The last state competition, Cody Jackson, Alyssa Hansten, my sister KayLee Day and I won. We were then given the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, to represent Idaho in the dairy foods competition on Oct. 19 and 20.

At the national level, each individual is required to perform a California Mastitis Test (CMT), take a written test on the dairy industry and problem solving, identify various cheeses, milk defects and fat content, and complete a team activity.

The team activity involved testing a producer’s milk for antibiotics using a basic snap test, counting bacteria with a standard plate count, checking for mastitis with the direct microscopic count, using the cryoscope to look for any adulterations, testing for titratable acidity and making sure the bulk tank temperature was no higher than 45ºF. After performing said tests, the team would present their findings before a panel of judges as if they were the producers of the milk. We were required to understand legal limits and consequences of violations so we could help the producers with fixing the issue.

I didn’t fully recognize all that we would have to know until practice started. We needed to understand all aspects of the dairy industry – farm, production, processing, sales – identify issues with milk and milk products, and understand all of this from the dairyman’s point of view.


Throughout the practice, Jessica Kluth of Kimberly helped us in setting up times to go tour various dairies and processing plants so we could fully understand the various aspects of the milk process. While the focus of these tours and meetings was mainly to help us succeed at our competition, they also gave us a chance to truly understand the industry from the inside, which was life changing.

Both of my parents are dairy vets, so I hear all about the dairy industry throughout the day. Seeing it from my parents’ point of view was way different than how I ended up seeing it after this competition. It’s so much more complicated than just feeding a cow and milking her as most outsiders view it. It’s a struggle against society, the economy and nature to keep a dairy farm going. Just trying to keep the cows clean and healthy was a big enough process to make anyone appreciate these dairymen a whole lot more.

At nationals, I saw 155 other students like me from 38 different states, all with their own dairymen fighting the struggles in their own states. I didn’t fully comprehend the impact this industry had until I stood there with all of those other kids, just high school students, who all understood approximately the same amount of information as I did, and we had only hit the tip of the iceberg.

FFA awards

At the end of the week, our team had placed seventh. We all got gold, meaning we were in the top 50 individuals. This was a huge accomplishment for us as we represented our hometown and state. We could go home with our heads held high, knowing that we had done our best.

More important than accomplishing so much was the experience we took away with us. Most kids memorize information and hold on to it just long enough so they can pass the test, and then it’s gone. Some of the little details we learned will be forgotten, but I don’t think I can ever forget the new appreciation I have for all of the people involved in the dairy industry. While I don’t think I will ever become a dairyman or food scientist, I will gladly advocate for those who are.  end mark

Annabelle Day is the reporter for the South Magic Valley District FFA in Idaho.

PHOTO 1: Students and FFA Idaho State President Gretchen Hansten pose in front of the stage. Left to right: Cody Jackson, Alyssa Hansten, Gretchen Hansten, KayLee Day, Annabelle Day.

PHOTO 2: Students and an advisor pose with scholarships, pins and plaques. Left to right: advisor Tom Clifton, KayLee Day, Annabelle Day, Cody Jackson, Alyssa Hansten. Photos provided by Annabelle Day.