Feb. 21, 2012
Agriculture students place high at Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge
Four Northwest Missouri State University agriculture students recently got an inside look at one farm’s operations and brought home honors for the findings and recommendations they presented to a panel of dairy experts.
The Northwest students were among about 80 students from 20 schools who competed Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 at the Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge. This year’s challenge played out at a farm in Seneca, Kan., and was hosted by Kansas State University.
For the challenge, students are separated into teams of five, with no team member representing the same school. The 15 teams competing in the challenge were divided into two cattle categories, Highland Holstein and Hilltop Jersey.
In the Highland Holstein category, Tiffany Dugan, a senior from Holton, Kan., majoring in agriculture education and animal science, was a member of the winning team, sponsored by Agri-King, Inc. Her teammates included students from University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Fox Valley Technical College, University of Minnesota and Northeast Iowa Community College.
In the Hilltop Jersey category, Katie Pantry, a sophomore agriculture business major from Lancaster, was a member of the second-place team, which was sponsored by DHI-Provo. Jessica Murphy, a sophomore agriculture education major from Glenwood, was on the third-place team, sponsored by Greenstone Farm Credit Service. Justin Hicks, a senior from Harrisonville who is majoring in industrial psychology with a minor in agriculture science, competed on the fourth-place team, sponsored by Accelerated Genetics.
“It’s very exciting, and this is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn,” said Dr. Dennis Padgitt, the Northwest agriculture professor who accompanied the students on the Dairy Challenge. “There’s some things you take away from college and always remember, and this is something they will always remember.”
The goal of the Dairy Challenge is to facilitate education, communication and an exchange of ideas among students, agribusiness, dairy producers and universities. The challenge also allows agriculture students to apply their learning as they review all facets of a working dairy business.
The competition begins with each four-person team receiving information about the farm, including production and farm management data. The teams then begin an evaluation of the farm’s operations and develop recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management.
During the final day of competition, each team presents its findings and recommendations to a judging panel consisting of dairy experts. The students field questions from the judges, and their presentations are evaluated based on the analysis and recommendations they provide.
In addition to educational opportunities the Dairy Challenge provides, Northwest students said the challenge of working with agriculture students they had never met was one of the most rewarding parts of the competition. The team members – who came from schools such as Ohio State University, Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison – had to quickly learn how to work together to help their teams succeed.
“As soon as we got there, we were split up with four people we didn’t know,” Hicks said. “We were all from different states, and from that moment on you had to develop a team and figure out who was going to do what and what you were going to look for.”
Unlike other events where college students may compete, the Dairy Challenge is not a simulation and the judges don’t throw in obstacles designed to test participants’ problem-solving skills. The Dairy Challenge allows student to observe the operations of a real, working farm, whose owners receive the students’ recommendations.
“I know my practices and I know what I do when I’m on my farm, but I don’t know what other people do, especially with a large capacity of 400 cattle,” said Murphy, who grew up on a small dairy farm and plans to intern this summer at a dairy farm in Minnesota. “We don’t have 400 cattle on our farm, so it was completely different.”
Northwest students also said they enjoyed socializing with other students and fine-tuning their team-building skills, in addition to the challenge of giving a presentation and answering questions posed by professionals serving on the judging panel.
Northwest’s Department of Agriculture boasts majors in agricultural business, agricultural economics, agricultural education, agricultural science, agronomy, animal science and horticulture as well as a pre-veterinary program. In addition to the 600-acre R.T. Wright Farm, Northwest agriculture students have access to facilities that include an alternative crops research site and a horticulture complex that features seven greenhouses with state-of-the-art technology.
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