March 3 2016 07:37 AM

Dairy Challenge competitions combine book learning with real-life situations.

Dairy Challenge
It's the same old routine. You're sitting in a classroom listening to lecture after lecture while thinking to yourself, "Am I really going to use this someday?" If you're in Philosophy 101, then probably not, but you may want to pay closer attention in that dairy science course of yours.

Recently, I had the chance to venture out of the classroom and travel north to Platteville, Wis., to participate in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Science Challenge (NAIDC). This opportunity allows students to test their dairy knowledge and use their skills to create a detailed presentation that they must give to a panel of industry professionals. Participants are divided into teams and shuttled to the host dairy to analyze areas of opportunity that the farm can take advantage of.

Upon my arrival, I was immediately placed into my team and given DHIA records, financial information and the standard operating procedures of the farm. We then set out the next morning to evaluate the host dairy and see what improvements could be made.

After thoroughly analyzing every aspect of the dairy, my team and I developed a list of recommendations along with the approximate cost and added value that these improvements would generate. We rehearsed our presentation, took a deep breath, and gave our proposal to an impressive panel of judges.

At the end of the competition, the students listened to the judges' farm analysis and the team placings. My team stood fourth.

I am thankful that I had the chance to attend this educational competition because it allowed me to test some of the information that I have been studying while attending school. I also was able to make connections with other young dairy enthusiasts while working with industry professionals. Although the classroom is a valuable tool for students, no matter what their major may be, it is beneficial to practice lessons learned in a real-life setting as well. You just might use it someday.
Taylor Leach blog footerTaylor Leach grew up on her family's dairy farm in Linwood, Kansas. Leach graduated with an associate's degree from Kansas City Kansas Community College and now attends Oklahoma State University, majoring in animal science and agriculture communications. On campus, she is a member of the dairy club and also works on the university's dairy farm. Leach will be serving as the 2016 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern.