Students apply what they learn in class to help real dairy farms

Apr 16, 2014

2014 Dairy Challenge

Courtesy: NAIDC. From left: Nicole Hood '14 and Jacklyn Schroeder '14, Delaware Valley College agribusiness majors.

At the 2014 Dairy Challenge, with tears in his eyes, a dairy farmer from California shared that back in 2009, listening to the innovative suggestions from college students helped him save his family’s farm and even make it profitable. Students from Delaware Valley College applied what they learned in class by analyzing and providing suggestions for real dairy farms at the 13th Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge April 3-5 in Fort Wayne, Ind. The event brought together 264 students from 37 schools.

Agribusiness majors Caitlin Barwise ’14, Sean LaGreca ‘14, Nicole Hood ’14, and Jacklyn Schroeder ’14  and Katelyn Sigman ’16, who was an academy participant (a program for younger students), represented DelVal at the event. They were coached by Dr. Bruce Richards, and Aaron Stepnoski.

“At this contest, students become an inspiration and represent a new hope to the dairy industry,” said Nicole Hood '14, a DelVal agribusiness major, of participating. “The impact of our presentations actually makes a difference to the farms we evaluate.”

Participants provided in-person inspections of dairy farms and interviewed herd owners. Students presented a full SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of a dairy as part of the competition. They also made recommendations related to: nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management to help the operations become more efficient and profitable. After presenting, students took questions from a panel of judges made up of dairy producers and industry experts in dairy finance, nutrition and animal health.

The contest gives students hand-on experience and also provides opportunities to network with sponsors at career fairs, demonstrations, and social events.  Participants are training for careers in the dairy industry as farmers, researchers, educators, financial analysts, nutritionists, farm service providers and veterinarians.

“The Dairy Challenge contest, in my opinion, is more than just a contest; it’s an experience of a lifetime,” said Hood.  “It makes all the hard work that goes into earning an education beyond high school feel absolutely worth it. The often challenging task of working as a team becomes a place where you can truly value the characteristics of each individual you encounter, networking becomes an easy practice, and at the end of the week, you truly have made a difference in someone’s life, which is simply indescribable.”