Delaware Valley University Students Apply Real-World Training at Dairy Challenge

May 17, 2018

A group of students and faculty who participated in dairy challenge.

Courtesy: NAIDC. From Left, Back to Front: Dr. Bruce Richards (coach), Matt Edgin ’18, Emily Lewis ’18, Emily Hunter ’19, Bryan Supplee ’18, Aaron Stepnoski (coach), Caitlyn Degner ’19, Brooke Payne ’19, Sonya Laley ’18, Lynsey Abrahart ’18, Corinne Bricker ’18, Amanda Wengryn ’19, Sarah Fenwick ’18.

Delaware Valley University students participated in the 17th Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) held April 12 through April 14 in Visalia, California. In total, 235 students from 38 colleges across the U.S. and Canada attended this educational event. These students are training for careers in the dairy industry as farmers, researchers, educators, financial analysts, nutritionists, farm service providers and veterinarians. 

The DelVal team included: Lynsey Abrahart ’18, Matt Edgin ‘18, Sonya Laley ’18, and Bryan Supplee ’18.  Additionally, Emily Lewis ’18 and Corinne Bricker ’18 participated on aggregate teams. Dr. Bruce Richards and Aaron Stepnoski, two DelVal faculty members, coach the team.

Dairy Challenge is an innovative three-day competition 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 four-person 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.

"I have been involved with Dairy Challenge for three years now at DelVal, and I couldn't ask for a better program to prepare me for my career in the dairy industry,” said Abrahart. “Dairy Challenge teaches real-life analysis of a dairy farm and how to work with the company to improve and target issues using our knowledge from class and practice. I couldn't be more proud of our team this year and the experiences we had along the way. I'm really sad to see my time come to an end in this program, but I'm excited to support them after I graduate."

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.  

Academy participants from DelVal included Caitlyn Degner ’19, Emily Hunter ’19, Brooke Payne ’19, and Amanda Wengryn ’19. Sarah Fenwick ’18 represented the University on the media corps at the NAIDC by taking pictures of the event and promoting it through social media.

North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge was established as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance the progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication, and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. NAIDC is supported completely through generous donations by more than 100 agribusinesses and dairy producers, and programs are coordinated by a volunteer board of directors.  

The Delaware Valley University team would like to thank the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence, Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, and James Harteis ’65 for their generous support of the team at the local level.

“It was a great learning experience that gave me a chance to use what I have learned throughout college in my dairy classes in a competition setting,” said Edgin. “I highly recommend doing Dairy Challenge to anyone that wants to further their dairy experience and see more of the industry.

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