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For nearly four decades, Dave Rhoda was a highly sought-after and award-winning farm veterinarian. Now that he’s retired, he’s a highly sought-after and award-winning instructor of aspiring young dairy farmers.

His range of knowledge and his skill at sharing it have made Rhoda one of the most popular instructors the UW-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course. It also earned him the 2012 J.S. Donald Excellence in Teaching Award.

Since retiring from veterinary practice seven years ago, Rhoda has taught two bedrock courses in the Short Course dairy curriculum—dairy herd management and dairy records management—and this year he added a new one on dairy cattle reproduction management and troubleshooting. He also coaches students for the annual Midwest Dairy Challenge, an inter-college competition that has brought FISC students many honors and a great deal of practical experience.

“Our students are lucky to have access to such a knowledgeable and effective instructor,” says Kent Weigel, Chair of the UW-Madison dairy science department. “His energy, enthusiasm and passion make him an excellent teacher and mentor, and the skills that our FISC students learn from Dave in these courses prepare them well for future careers as dairy farmers, consultants and salespeople in Wisconsin’s dairy industry.”

Rhoda’s students couldn’t agree more.

“I could always tell that Dr. Rhoda truly wanted us to succeed,” says Jordan Butturini, who completed his second year in the FISC program last spring. “His knowledge of agriculture was evident in his everyday lessons and stories from his veterinarian practice, and this helped to reinforce what he was trying to teach us.”

“He also cares about how consumers view the agriculture industry,” Butturini adds. “He knows that knowledge of consumers is the only way that we can shed a better light on the industry as a whole, and he strives to do that each and every day.”

Rhoda’s honed his dairy management expertise throughout the 37 years he ran his large-animal veterinary practice, in which he worked on many of Wisconsin’s top dairy farms. Raised on a dairy and swine farm near Chenoa, Illinois, it wasn’t surprising that Rhoda pursued a career as a veterinarian. After graduating from the University of Illinois Veterinary College in 1966, he served in the U.S. Army until 1969, then joined a small dairy practice in Evansville, Wisconsin.

Rhoda retired from the Evansville Veterinary Service in the fall of 2006, two years after being awarded Bovine Practitioner of the Year by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. He was honored for his work on the “best practices” task force for the Wisconsin Veterinary Medicine Association and his efforts to enact the Animal Medical Drug Usage Clarification Act. More accolades followed: In 2011 the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association named him Wisconsin Veterinarian of the Year.

The Donald Teaching Award is a great honor, Rhoda says. “Teaching at the college level has always been one of my life’s goals.” And the most rewarding parts have to do with the people he works with.

“I have received a lot of help and support from the members of the dairy science faculty about how to organize the syllabus and lesson plans. The faculty members have always had time to offer advice about how to approach teaching,” says Rhoda.

“As for the students, the majority of them that attend the program have indicated that they want to make dairying their life work, so their commitment to the material has also made my teaching experience enjoyable.”

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