Oct. 11 2012 07:47 AM

Academy will double the programs reach.

by Amanda Smith, Hoard's Dairyman Associate Editor

Launched in 2002, the idea behind the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge was to allow students to incorporate the knowledge they had gained in all aspects of dairy management into one competition. Not only did the program better prepare students for when they left campus and went into industry, it also helped the professors charged with building that knowledge base find the strengths and weaknesses in their own university programs.

Annually, approximately 130 to 150 students compete in the national contest. In 2013 though, NAIDC will expand their efforts to reach another 150 students. The Dairy Challenge Academy will now allow sophomores, juniors and seniors in four-year dairy programs along with students from community colleges and technical schools to further develop their understanding of current dairy issues outside of an academic setting.

The Dairy Challenge Academy will run in conjunction with the national contest, April 4 to 6, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Ind. Participants in both the national competition and academy will start together for educational sessions on dairy profitability and opportunities in the U.S. dairy industry. In the evening the groups will split with contest participants beginning the competition and academy attendees continuing their educational work.

Over the course of the next two days academy students will work with advisers – experts from the dairy industry – to experience first-hand how to evaluate and consult on a dairy farm. The goal of the academy is to be a hands-on learning opportunity for students in the prime of their dairy educations.

The program for Dairy Challenge Academy incorporates interactive seminars and structured table talk sessions, along with an on-farm forum and case study. Students will visit two dairies with academy advisers to learn how to they evaluate dairy profitability and approach management challenges.

Both programs are of an all-encompassing nature that challenges not only students but the intuitions they attend and the industry professionals that assist them. As Linda Hodorff, a Wisconsin dairy producer and Dairy Challenge founder noted, "By nature of the Dairy Challenge name, we're hoping students challenge themselves and help better the industry. Universities and curriculums are challenged to future needs. And those who volunteer are challenged to keep up to date with key profit factors on today's dairies."