Students Apply Real-World Training at North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge®

University of Minnesota students participated in the 17th Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC) held April 12-14 in Visalia, CA. In total, 235 students from 38 colleges across the U.S. and Canada attended this educational event.

The national contest team consisted of Ethan Dado, Laura Jensen, Blaine Knutson, and Austin Schmitt. The students represented the University of Minnesota well and gave highly rated presentations. Six students participated in the Dairy Challenge® Academy: Anne Benzine, Amber Cafferty, Lauren Hendel, Krista Styer, and Jake Siewert. The NAIDC teams are coached by Dr. Marcia Endres.

Dairy Challenge® is an innovative three-day competition and learning opportunity (Academy) for students representing dairy science programs at North American universities. It enables students to apply theory and learning to a real-world dairy, while working as part of a team. In its 17-year history, Dairy Challenge has helped train more than 6,400 students through the national contest, Dairy Challenge Academy and four regional contests conducted annually.

Collegiate participants visited six dairy farms in California, as part of their training to help farmers evaluate and adapt management to optimize success and animal care. Also, industry professionals presented cutting-edge research, new programs and career opportunities to students. 

Each contest team received information from an area dairy, including production and farm management data. After an in-person inspection of the dairy, students interviewed the herd owners. Each team developed a farm analysis and recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management.

The event culminated with team members presenting recommendations and then fielding questions from a panel of judges. These official judges included dairy producers and industry experts in dairy finances, reproduction, nutrition and animal health. Presentations were evaluated for accuracy of analysis and recommendations, with awards presented at a final banquet.

The Dairy Challenge Academy was developed in 2013 to expand this educational and networking event to more college students. Academy student-participants also analyzed and developed recommendations for an operating dairy; however, the Academy was organized in mixed-university teams with two Advisors to help coach these younger students. 

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