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Midwest Dairy Challenge draws over 65 students to Menomonie, Wisconsin

The seventh Annual Midwest Dairy Challenge, which ran February 9-11, 2011, attracted 68 students from 16 universities and colleges to the event hosted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

“The frigid temperatures presented a challenge to our students, but the outstanding group rose to the challenge to analyze the two dairies,” said Contest Chair John Goeser from Vita Plus.

The Dairy Challenge is an innovative competition developed by industry and
university professionals, which exposes students to opportunities in a
vibrant dairy industry.  This year is the tenth anniversary of the national
contest, the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, which will be
held March 31-April 2 in Hickory, North Carolina.  The regional competitions
allow students to gain experience in dairy analysis.  Working in four- or
five-person, mixed-university teams, students at the Midwest Dairy Challenge
assessed all aspects of a working dairy farm and presented recommendations
for improvement to a panel of judges and the participating farm families.

This year’s contest was held in Menomonie, Wisc.  It drew students from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Iowa State University, the University of
Minnesota, Michigan State University, the University of Illinois, South
Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Kansas State University,
the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Purdue University, the University
of Wisconsin-River Falls, Northeast Iowa Community College, UW Farm and
Industry Short Course, Lakeshore Technical College, Chippewa Valley
Technical College, and Northcentral Technical College.

After they arrived, students joined their new teammates and had the
opportunity to learn from professionals in the dairy industry during a
career panel.  Panel members offered insights into careers in sales,
consulting, dairy nutrition and reproduction.  They were then allowed to get
to know each other and to begin learning about the dairy they would be

The next day, students were led on farm tours of two dairies located in the
Menomonie area by Midwest Dairy Challenge Committee members.

After the tours, the students had time to meet with their teams and develop
questions for the herd owners.  The herd owners were then put in touch with
the students and entertained questions from both students and judges about
their farming operations. Armed with detailed production and financial
paperwork from the farms, as well as their own observations, the
participants developed a presentation about what they saw and suggestions
for improvement. Friday was presentation day as the teams were given 20
minutes to offer their suggestions. This was followed by a
question-and-answer session and a critique by the judges regarding their
presentation and recommendations.

Throughout the event, participants had several opportunities to network with
industry professionals who attended the event. Representatives from many of
the platinum sponsors, including several who were looking to hire both
interns and full-time employees, were also available for a career fair that
was held on Friday.

Judges chose two teams as platinum winners, the contest’s highest
distinction. The individuals who comprised these teams are: Wesley
Vanderstappen – Northeast Iowa Community College; Danielle Brown –
UW-Madison; Ethan Ulness – UW Farm and Industry Short Course; Melissa
Schmitt – Iowa State University; Karen Anderson – University of Minnesota;
Heather Lammers – Lakeshore Technical College; Eric Sneller – Michigan State
University; Scott Felten – UW Farm and Industry Short Course; Joseph
Ploeckelman – UW-River Falls.

The North American Dairy Challenge was established as a management contest
to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. It strives to
incorporate a higher-learning atmosphere with practical application to help
prepare students for dairy industry careers. Supported financially through
generous donations by industry and coordinated by a volunteer board of
directors, the first NAIDC was held in April 2002.

For more information on the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge,
contact us at, or visit