Ms. Morgan Westover, Senior, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University
The 2019 Midwest Dairy Challenge was hosted by the University of Illinois in Freeport, Illinois and it took place from February 13th to 15th. Coach Dr. Maurice Eastridge took eight students from Ohio State: Paul Bensman, Hannah Dye, Katia Hardman, Hunter Meese, Sarah Schuster, Kate Sherman, Morgan Westover, and Megan Whalin. The students were put in teams with students from other universities. From the participants, Hunter Meese’s team placed first in their division and Megan Whalin’s team placed second in their division. The three-day program included educational sessions regarding topics such as robotic milking, farm financials, and farm evaluation tools. The main contest took place at three area farms who graciously allowed their farms to be used as models for the event.
As a student, the contest was an excellent opportunity for me to learn how to evaluate management practices on a dairy farm. I attended the Midwest Dairy Challenge in 2018 and 2019. We worked in teams of four, with individuals from other schools to evaluate the farm’s management, cow health, reproductive program, nutrition, replacement program, and financials. As a team, we then identify areas that the farm is performing well in and areas that have opportunity for improvement that would allow increased efficiency and financial viability. This information is compiled into a report which is presented to a panel of industry professionals. It is a great example of applied learning because it has allowed me to utilize knowledge and information that I have gained from classes at Ohio State and apply and problem solve on a farm. Not only did I utilize knowledge gained from a multitude of different classes, but it also provided me with the opportunity to work with students from other universities and technical schools throughout the Midwest. From this, we combined a variety of ideas into the best report possible, all the while learning from each other and working as a team.
The Midwest Dairy Challenge provided a great opportunity to learn more about dairy farming and herd management, but it also served as a great opportunity to learn from and network with industry professionals. All the skills and knowledge I gained from participating in Dairy Challenge have served as a catalyst for me to become more involved in the industry. They set me up for success in my previous internships and are certain to propel me forward in my future career. I am very thankful for the support from the event sponsors and industry professionals. Because of them, I have been able to reap many benefits from the continued learning and experience that Dairy Challenge has provided me over the years. It has been a great extension to my education that has allowed me to develop a better understanding of the dairy industry and how to be a successful contributor to it.