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Undergraduate students – 230 in total – from 37 colleges across North America traveled to Visalia, California for the 16th annual Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC) held March 30 to April 1. Seven dairy farms participated in the educational event. Dairy students worked to improve their dairy management and communication skills, networked with other students, and explored industry careers. Dairy Challenge is a unique, real-world experience where dairy students work as a team and apply their college coursework to evaluate and provide practical solutions for an operating dairy farm. In Visalia, two programs ran concurrently – the 16th national Dairy Challenge contest and the fifth annual Dairy Challenge Academy. The events were coordinated by the NAIDC Board of Directors and the western planning committee.
University of Minnesota Dairy Challenge Team (Left to Right): Fred Mansfield, Johanna Knorr, Coach Marcia Endres, Andrew Krause, Lance Sexton

This year’s national contest included 34 universities, whose four-person teams competed for awards based on their quality of teams’ farm analysis and appropriate solutions. Their farm presentations were evaluated by a panel of five judges, including dairy producers, veterinarians, finance specialists and seasoned agribusiness personnel. The University of Minnesota’s national contest team included Johanna Knorr (Pelican Rapids), Andrew Krause (Buffalo), Fred Mansfield (Kerkhoven), and Lance Sexton (Millville). Dr. Marcia Endres coached the team. The team earned a First Place award with high overall scores. Judges were very impressed by the team’s assessment and presentation. The dairy producer also attended the presentation and told the team that their recommendations were really practical. “It was an outstanding performance by the team, I was very proud”, said Endres.

The Academy provided interactive training for nearly 90 students from four-year universities or two-year dairy programs. Academy participants were divided into smaller groups including students from various schools, and dairy industry volunteers worked as Advisors to coach these less-experienced Academy participants as they assessed the dairy and developed recommendations. The University of Minnesota students participating in the Academy were Ethan Dado, Trent Dado, Maddie Lindahl, and Austin Schmitt.

“Dairy Challenge is a tremendous collaboration between universities, dairy producers and agribusinesses – all working together toward a common mission to help develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and continually improve the dairy industry,” said Amy te Plate-Church of Look East PR and NAIDC board chair.

About Dairy Challenge

NAIDC is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. Over its 16-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 5,000 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. The next national event will also be hosted in Visalia, Calif., April 12-14, 2018. Four regional events are held in late fall and winter; details are at