UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three Penn State Animal Science students participated in the Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge, held in-person after a virtual event in 2020. Hosted by SUNY Morrisville, 66 students participated from nine different universities.
Penn state students were: Sarah Alexander, Liberty, PA; Hannah Diehl, McVeytown, PA; and Donald Opp, Washington, PA. They were coached by Lisa Holden, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Dairy Science, and Robert C. Goodling, Jr., Extension Associate, Dairy.
Designed as an educational event for future dairy leaders, students were assigned to small mixed-university groups to work together to evaluate the host farms, and prepare a presentation about their findings and recommendations in each area of the farm: facilities, nutrition, financials, reproduction and animal health. After evaluating the farms each group prepares a presentation with their observations and recommendations.
Host farms were: Hanno Farms, LLC, 4557 Arthur Road, Lowville, NY, owned by Bob Hanno with about 350 Holstein cows. Porterdale Farms, Adams Center, NY, is a third generation 2,000 cow operation third generation.
Holden said, “We are grateful to the farms that welcomed the students and provided background to help them gain real-world experience in understanding the scope of the dairy business. We also thank the local farms in Pennsylvania who allowed students access to their information as part of the preparation.”
Diehl said she enjoyed the opportunity to work together with students from other universities as they combined what they each had learned into a unique learning environment. She said, “My thoughts are that every student who wants to work in the dairy industry or return home to the family farm should participate in Dairy Challenge in some way through the National competition, Regional or the Academy. Dairy Challenge has taught me critical evaluation and management skills as well as public speaking. It has really been a class where everything I have learned I am able to apply in a “real world” setting. I really enjoyed the chance to get to work with other students studying agriculture and I am looking forward to the National Competition.”
Alexander agreed that the experience was very positive. “I enjoyed being able to work with other schools because it gave us the ability to learn from each other while we were competing together. I learned more about whole-farm analysis and how it can be applied to real-life situations.”
As part of the event, students toured Ara-Kuh Farms, Lewis County, NY, to see how the Shultz Family makes fresh cheese curds. Diehl said they learned that the family makes cheese curds 2-3 times weekly, and offer the product locally through stores and restaurants. Diehl attested, “The end result is delicious!” They also toured the laboratory that tests milk for the Kraft cream cheese plant and went to the dairy store in Lowville.
Alexander said, “I always enjoy visiting smaller operations that can process their own milk into products. I have never really been a cheese curd person but the samples that we had at Ara-Kuh Farms were some of the best that I have ever tried. I would most definitely eat them again!”
The Northeast Dairy Challenge is one of four regional events that precede the 2022 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge to be held March 31-April 2, 2022, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fox Valley Technical College and the Midwest Regional Planning Committee in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American Post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers and agribusiness and university personnel. It was established in 2002.
Funding for Penn State’s participation in the event came from an endowment established by alumnus Clif Marshall to facilitate travel by teams within the Department.
Penn State will co-host the 2022 Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge with Delaware Valley University.
–Penn State University