60 students from 7 universities put their knowledge to the test

Sixty students from six western universities and one Canadian university competed in the seventh annual Western Regional Dairy Challenge March 1-3, 2012 in Visalia, Calif.

North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge from Western contest

The Western Regional Dairy Challenge is an innovative dairy management analysis competition developed by industry and university professionals from across the U.S.

A key objective of the dairy challenge is to present students with real-life situations that stress the importance of teamwork and professionalism.

Students from the different universities were partnered in teams of five. In preparation of being divided into teams, Rick Bowen (Golden State Feed and Grain) and Jonathan Kennedy (Farm Credit West) conducted a team building exercise. The exercise focused on risk management and encouraged the students to work with their new team members.

Once the aggregate teams are formed, each group conducts a comprehensive evaluation of a working dairy farm. The evaluation includes everything from cow comfort and herd health to reproduction and finances. The teams are looking for opportunities to improve operational efficiency of the dairy farm being evaluated and ideas to improve that particular dairy's bottom-line.

This contest requires students to use the "critical thinking" skills they're taught in class and apply them to the real-life situations that they will most likely face on the farm. It challenges them to work with people they've just met, collect and analyze data, summarize that information, develop a presentation with recommendations and then present that information to a panel of judges and the host family, says Jen Gisler, 2012 Western Regional Dairy Challenge Chair.

Participating universities at this year's competition included: the University of Alberta (Canada), California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, California State University Fresno, Utah State, Washington State University, Texas A&M University and the University of Idaho.

The host farm for this year's Western Regional Dairy Challenge was Double Oak Dairy a 1,400-cow operation in Visalia, Calif. Double Oak Dairy is owned Vivian Vander Poel and managed by her son, Brad Vander Poel.

"I felt honored to be asked to participate in the Western Dairy Challenge as the host this year," said Brad Vander Poel, operator of Double Oak Dairy. "The students and judges provided me with some great suggestions that I plan to implement on how to improve the profitability of my dairy. In addition, I enjoyed being able to see so many people from all aspects of the dairy industry work together to make a difference through this program."

Judges for this year's competition were: Dr. Gene Boomer, Arm & Hammer; Dr. Michael DeGroot with DeGroot Dairy Consulting; Bill Genasci, All West/Select Sires; Jonathan Kennedy, Farm Credit West; Dr. Chad Wright, DVM with Animal Health International; and Bob Berczynski, Western Milling.

Judges at this year's competition agree that the dairy challenge is one of the best development tools for dairy science students to see and evaluate dairies and then be judged by recognized experts in the industry.

Receiving 1st Place awards were:
Team Gustine: Robin Diether, University of Alberta; Catherine Whitney, Utah State University; Dani Smerek, University of Alberta; Abbi Olson, Washington State University; Brent Wickstrom, California Polytechnic State University.

Team Hollywood: Adam teVelde, Texas A & M University; Geoff Cox, University of Alberta; Benjamin Enger, University of Idaho, Brittney Day, California State University Fresno; Amber Quann, Washington State University.

Students from the regional contest will go on to compete at the national contest which will be held March 29-31st, 2012 in Roanoke, VA. This will be the 11th anniversary of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge and it will be hosted by Virginia Tech and North Carolina State University.

Studnets presenting at the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge from the Western contest

About Dairy Challenge

The mission of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge is to facilitate education, communication and an exchange of ideas among students, agribusiness, dairy producers and universities that enhances the development of the dairy industry and its leaders.

The program is fully funded through the generous support of companies and producer associations serving the dairy industry, as well as a growing number of individual dairy business owners. For more information or to become a sponsor of the Dairy Challenge program, visit www.dairychallenge.org or contact Molly J. Kelley, NAIDC Executive Director, at naidc@wdexpo.com.