July 5 2022 08:00 AM

Gopher Dairy Camp is always filled with fun activities and learning opportunities, and this year’s rendition was no exception.

The Gopher Dairy Camp has been hosted on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus since 2003. This year was the 17th Gopher Dairy Camp after missing the 2020 event and hosting a virtual camp for 2021.

I was fortunate enough to serve as the senior co-chair for this year’s camp, and I was incredibly proud to bring this tradition back to campus from June 23 through 25. This is the first time most of these youth, who are involved with agriculture and 4-H, visit a college campus.

Campers start this experience with the Gopher Gold auction, where they can purchase a heifer to show (with “moo money,” of course.) They practiced with these heifers the next couple of days before showing them in a showmanship contest the final day of camp. The rest of the first evening was spent by playing games and ice breakers before hitting the hay.

The second day of camp was the most jam-packed day. Campers toured Autumnwood Farms in Forest Lake, Minn., which included a sampling of their tasty milk processed right on the farm. We then transitioned to a “fun with dairy foods” lecture on campus. Campers learned about milk protein, fat, and sugar, and how they work together to make the different products we know and love. Their favorite part of the lecture was making ice cream using liquid nitrogen!

We then began the workshops on fitting cattle for a show and showmanship skills. Since we have campers at many skill and knowledge levels, these lessons are tailored to accommodate each group. After the workshops, everyone’s favorite activity began – clipping! (Well, maybe it’s not anyone’s favorite, but it was a great chance to practice this skill.) Once the animals and campers were all cleaned up, it was time for a reward trip to Skyzone to finish out the day.

Finally, to complete the camp, we prepared for and began the showmanship contest. This was hosted at the livestock pavilion on campus where the St. Paul campus students hold the Minnesota Royal show each spring. Families of the campers were invited to watch the show and attend the luncheon where we handed out awards for the show winners.

It was, of course, a long and exhausting few days, with construction noise and dust looming right next to the barns. But I am so glad myself, along with many other Gopher Dairy Club members, were able to provide this fun learning experience to these youth. Thanks for joining me in reminiscing about camp!

Mikayla Peper

Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper is serving as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.