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Ike V. Iyioke, ike@msu.edu

Real-world Experience via Internship: Josh First

Ike Iyioke
Dept. of Animal Science

Josh First

The MSU Ag Tech Dairy Management Program is a 1.5-year long program designed to provide students with a basic foundation of knowledge about dairy production and management. Basic principles of dairy nutrition, reproduction, health, business and management, are studied.

An important part of the program is the internship. All students must complete an internship to graduate from the program. Internships have to be a minimum of three months long and cannot be completed on the family farm or any farm a student has worked on for an extended period of time. Students are encouraged to live away from home during the internship, which normally occurs between the first and second year of the program. Almost all Ag Tech dairy internships happen on dairy farms, but other opportunities do exist.

Every effort is made to match each student’s goals and interests with specific internship opportunities. Over 50% of 2011 internships were outside the state of Michigan. The size of herds utilized for internships ranged from 60 cows to over 7,000 cows and represented all types of dairy operations including purebred, commercial, grazing, and organic.

Where did you intern?
Lew-Max Holsteins, a 450-cow farm in Belding Michigan, owned by Ken and Aaron Gasper.

What was your prior experience?
I worked on 200-cow family dairy farm in Ionia. I assisted my father in doing different types of work from treating cows to planting and harvesting crops.

What were your responsibilities as an intern?
Assisting the herdsman at first with fresh cows and sick cows was my main job, but I also did vaccinating, dehorning, worked on lame cows, pulled calves, and pretty much anything else since it was a smaller farm.  When the herdsman went on vacation for about 10 days I was in charge of all the animal healthcare and breeding on the farm.

In what ways was the farm you interned at similar and different from farms to which you are accustomed to?
We both do a lot of the same practices when it comes to managing and caring for the animals except that this farm just dealt with a larger number of them. This farm had heifers that were custom raised which is different from my farm. Both of our farms are high-producing farms so we both used newer technology and techniques to stay on top of challenges that may arise and to keep progressing.  

What did you learn from your internship?
That was my first experience working for someone other than my dad so it was good to learn what it felt like to work for a different boss and be more of an "employee" and not just a family member. It was also good to learn how another farm dealt with different issues and challenges on the dairy.

What were your expectations before the internship? How did they differ from reality?
I basically just wanted to know what it was like to work for someone else and learn how a very good farm was managed. I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I could so I could implement that on our dairy to make it better. My expectations were met for the most part but if I had the opportunity to devote more time to the internship (I only worked about 7 hours a day), it would have been better for both me and my boss.

What general advice would you give to future interns?
Go in with an open mind because everyone does things differently and you are there to learn what would make them successful. I also would  make sure you go away from home so you can meet new friends and form a closer relationship with your boss and his family.

What specific aspects of the internship would you recommend to would-be interns?
Make sure you go to work willing to learn and get as much knowledge as possible from your co-workers. Ask as many questions as possible and get to know your co-workers on a personal level.

What are you doing now?
I purchased the farm from my parents in the spring of 2011. We currently have 240 cows and farm 700 acres.
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.