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MSU Third Place at National Dairy Challenge

Miriam Weber Nielsen
Dept. of Animal Science

MSU team: Eric Sneller, Dr. Nielsen, Torey Wood
(seated): Carrie Szybisty and Arianna Walters.

Aggregate team with one MSU student, Ashleigh Covert (seated, left)
and Penn State and Florida students.

Five Animal Science seniors participated in the 11th annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) in Roanoke, VA on March 29 – 31, 2012. Members of the MSU team which earned third place were Eric Sneller, Sebewaing; Carrie Szybisty, Redford; Arianna Walters, Pinconning; and animal science and biosystems engineering double major Torey Wood, Marlette. Six points separated the top three placing teams at this year’s event, which attracted 128 students from 32 universities across the United States and Canada. Ashleigh Covert (Animal Science senior, Lansing) participated on an aggregate team with students from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Florida that placed 5th in that division. North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech co-hosted this year’s competition.
The NAIDC consists of four regional intercollegiate dairy management competitions – Midwest, Northeast, Southern and Western – and a national contest. Designed by dairy industry representatives and university faculty members and specialists, the event is supported financially through industry donations and coordinated by a volunteer board of directors. The first NAIDC took place in 2002 at MSU, and since that time has helped prepare more than 3,000 students for careers in the dairy industry.

“The practical application of knowledge gained in the classroom is unmatchable,” Szybisty commented. “It is where we, as students, really learned to understand and apply four years of collegiate-level knowledge.  Connections between nutrition, health, welfare, and other areas are made so much clearer when we have to solve things ourselves and do more research than we would in the classroom.”

Sneller concurred on the Dairy Challenge being one of the greatest experiences in his college career. “It helped bring everything I learned throughout college into a real life application.  It allowed great networking within the industry and encouraged development of long-lasting friendships.” Walters agreed, adding “NAIDC was a great practical application of our knowledge. Competing at NAIDC was a wonderful way to connect and work with producers in the dairy industry from across the country.”

Sneller participated in the Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge in northern Wisconsin during his junior year, where his aggregate team earned first place in their division. He enrolled in a new dairy management course during spring of his senior year where he worked to earn a spot on MSU’s team for the NAIDC.  “We owe a lot of our success to our coaches and their dedication to our understanding and learning.  Competing in the NAIDC has greatly developed who I am and has already helped me with my future in the dairy industry.”

Road to the NAIDC
Michigan State hosts its own Dairy Challenge each fall for undergraduate and veterinary students with an interest in dairy.  The MSU contest offers an environment that tests students’ knowledge of the dairy industry in a fun and educational setting.  One of the most important aspects of the Challenge is enhancing students’ ability to work as a member of a team.

The MSU contest is similar in format to the national contest. Day one of the two-day competition begins with each team receiving a packet of information on the dairy farm they will visit that day. Each packet includes production and farm management data.  After a visit to the dairy and an interview with farm personnel, team members work together to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations for herd management.  Students are challenged to identify potential areas of improvement and to prioritize their recommendations.  On day two, teams present their recommendations to a panel of judges. Students must field questions from each of the judges. The evening concludes with dinner and presentation of awards.

From participants in the Novice division of the MSU Dairy Challenge, 4 students are selected to represent MSU in the Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge each winter. First-year students Amanda Carey (Morley), Barb Leipprandt (Caseville), Britney Zondlak (Byron Center), and Carmen Zwemmer (Elkton) represented MSU at the 8th annual Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge in St. Joseph, Missouri. The design of the Midwest Regional is unique in that students are placed on 5-person teams with students from other colleges and universities. The event was held January 31 – February 2 and included 78 students from 19 universities and colleges across the Midwest. 

Juniors or seniors interested in trying out for a spot on MSU’s team for the NAIDC enroll in a dairy management course in spring semester. Students work on teams to evaluate a dairy farm and present their recommendations. The top four students and an alternate are selected for the NAIDC based on their apparent knowledge of dairy management, their presentation skills and their teamwork ability.

MSU Dairy Challenge
Seventy-four students participated in the MSU Dairy Challenge last fall.  The Advanced division consisted of 5 teams, the Novice division had 7 teams, the Ag Tech Dairy Management division had 5 teams, and the Veterinary Student division had 2 teams.  Students in the Advanced division must have completed at least one dairy management course.  The contest was hosted at Horning Dairy Farm in Manchester, owned by Earl and Diane Horning and Jeff and Lynda Horning. 

The winning team in the Advanced division received $160 and consisted of Kristi Kocsis (animal science senior, Westphalia), Stephanie Ross (animal science junior, Linwood), Carrie Szybisty (animal science senior, Redford) and Angela Yaconis (animal science senior, Gregory).  The second-place team received $80 and was comprised of Olivia DeVooght (animal science/marketing senior, Marquette), Catherine Flechsig (animal science senior, Brighton), and Chelsea Niewiadomski (animal science junior, Grant). 

The winning team in the Novice division received $120 and consisted of Adam Guernsey (Ionia), Jacob Wagner (Niles), and Britney Zondlak (Byron Center), all freshmen in the Ag Tech Dairy Management Program.  The second-place team received $60 and was comprised of Joshua Garver (animal science freshman, White Pigeon), Barbara Leipprandt (animal science freshman, Caseville), and Carmen Zwemmer (animal science freshman, Elkton).

The first-place team in the Ag Tech Dairy Management (second year) division received $160 and included Kaitlyn Eisenga (Marion), Cody Koster (McBain), Ned Lindsey (Tekonsha) and Bryan Mahoney (St. Charles). The second-place team earned $80 and consisted of Rob Ferwerda (Zeeland), Reuben Kamp (Marne), Justin Ott (National City), and Jared Scheurer (Ionia).

The first-place team in the Veterinary Student division received $160 and consisted of Jordan Boniface (1st year, Delton), Christina Brownlee (1st year, Lansing), Jeff Shepherd (1st year, Hemlock), and Ashley Zondlak (1st year, Byron Center).
Sponsors for the MSU Dairy Challenge include ABS Global, ADM Alliance Nutrition, Caledonia Farmers Elevator, Cargill Animal Nutrition, Dairy Farmers of America, Diamond V, Falmouth Cooperative Company Inc., Kalmbach Feeds Inc., Land O’Lakes Purina Feed, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Nietzke & Faupel, P.C., NorthStar Cooperative and  AntelBio, Prince Agri Products Inc., Thumb Veterinary Services and Vita Plus Corporation. The Roger and Marjorie Mellenberger Dairy Associates Program Enhancement Fund and the Frederick P. Halbert Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund provide additional monetary support.

Acknowledgments and thanks are extended to the Horning Dairy Farm and Julie Ainsworth of NorthStar Cooperative and Antel Bio, the lead sponsor for 2011, for hosting the contest. The contributions of the MSU Dairy Challenge judges are greatly appreciated: Dr. Herb Bucholtz, MSU Animal Science professor emeritus; Dr. Bruce Clark, NorthStar Cooperative Inc. and Antel Bio; Brad Curtis, dairy farmer, Mason; Dr. Ron Erskine, MSU Veterinary Medicine; Tom Herremans, Michigan Milk Producers Association; Dr. Kathy Lee, MSU Dairy Extension; Don Martell, Diamond V; Roberta Osborne, MSU Dairy Extension; and Matt Wood, Vita Plus.  Special thanks go to Doug Brook, NorthStar Cooperative and Antel Bio, for assistance in data collection.

Support from all of the Dairy Challenge sponsors makes the MSU, regional, and national Dairy Challenge events possible.  Additional information on the regional and national Dairy Challenge events and a listing of corporate sponsors is available at <http://www.dairychallenge.org>. For more information about the MSU Dairy Challenge program, contact Miriam Weber Nielsen at msw@msu.edu or 517-432-5443.
Michigan Dairy Review is published and mailed to all Michigan dairy farmers and individuals working in allied industries. With its ever increasing on-line presence, the MDR target audience has spread beyond Michigan and the U.S.; today electronic subscribers are located in places such as Australia, The Scandinavia, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Peru, and New Zealand.  

The MDR is the primary communications vehicle for research findings, extension programming, and teaching between faculty and staff in MSU dairy programs and the dairy industry. The MDR web site is paid for by the C. E. Meadows Endowment.