Up for the Challenge – Dairy Challenge

Dr. Maurice L. EastridgeProfessor, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

The North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) program began in 2002 (https://www.dairychallenge.org/) and the first regional program began in the northeast in 2003. Since that time, midwest, southern, and western regional dairy challenges have been organized. In addition, Ohio State hosts a local dairy challenge each fall semester to provide training for students in the dairy herd management course and other college students. Students from the Agricultural Technical Institute also have participated for several years, and sometimes, students from Wilmington College participate.

Dairy Challenge provides the opportunity for students to experience the process of evaluating management practices on a dairy farm and to interact with representatives in the dairy industry. The program is held in a contest format for undergraduate students whereby they are grouped into teams of three to four individuals. Locally, veterinary and graduate students are invited to attend the farm visit and participate in a meeting later in the evening with the contest judges to discuss observations on the farm. A farm in central Ohio is selected and records from the farm are made available to students. Typically, students are taken to the farm for a visit to interview the owner and to observe the facilities for about two hours. Then the teams of students return to campus to finalize their assessment into a presentation for the following day. The students present their findings to a panel of judges consisting of individuals from the University and from allied industries.

Ohio Dairy Challenge

The program this year was held November 3-4, 2023 and was sponsored by ABVista, ADM Animal Nutrition, Cargill, CSA Animal Nutrition, D&D Ingredients, Provimi North America, Purina Animal Nutrition, ST Genetics, DSM-firmenich, and Feedworks. The farm selected for the contest this year was the Ayers Farms in Perrysville, OH owned by Steve and Janet Ayers; Carl and Debbie Ayers; Kathy Davis; and Jesse Ayers. The family’s operation includes about 685 cows and 600 youngstock. The cows are milked 3X/day in a double-18 herringbone parlor with milk yield at 100 lb/cow/day, 3.92% fat, and 3.13% protein. There were 53 students (11 students from ATI, four graduate students, four veterinary students, and 34 students from the Columbus campus) that participated in the program this year. During the Saturday morning presentations, the students had 20 minutes to present their findings and 10 minutes for questions from the judges. The judges for the program this year were Jim Aldrich (CSA Animal Nutrition), Candace Lease (ST Genetics), Gabriella Maidini (Provimi), Laura Tavera (Purina Animal Nutrition), Michele Lahmers (DSM), Maurice Eastridge (Professor, Department of Animal Sciences), Brian Lammers (ADM Animal Nutrition), Benjamin Wenner (Associate Professor, Department of Animal Sciences), and Morgan Westover (Cargill).

The top two teams consisted of: 1) Natalie Braun, Grant DeBruin, Garrett Hastings, and Abby Whitsel, and 2) Molly Cordonnier, Allix Cotterman, Danielle Jones, Elena Rango. From the Ohio event, students were selected to participate in the Midwest Regional and National Dairy Challenge programs.

Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge

Students from the Columbus campus participated in the Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge hosted by University of Wisconsin-Madison in Green Bay, WI during February 7-9, 2024. The students participating from Ohio State were Natalie Braun, Molly Cordonnier, Allix Cotterman, Grant DeBruin, Garrett Hastings, Kara Flaherty, Juliana Reising, Alexandra Tanner, Braydon Thompson, and Abby Whitsel. All of the students were placed on aggregate teams whereby they were on teams with students from universities other than Ohio State, with 17 schools and 120 students participating. First place rankings were received by the teams with OSU students of Molly Cordonnier and Garrett Hastings. Abby Whitsel’s team received a second place. The program provided a tremendous learning opportunity for all of the students.

National NAIDC

The National NAIDC Contest and Dairy Challenge Academy was held April 4-6, 2024 in Visalia, CA. Kara Flaherty, Garrett Hastings, Juliana Reising, and Alexandra Tanner were on the Ohio State contest team, visiting the well-known River Ranch  farm with about 5,600 cows. Natalie Braun and Molly Cordonnier participated in the Dairy Challenge Academy, with each one being on a team with students from other universities; however, all of the Academy students visited the Curtimade Jersey Farm. Due to the presence of avian influenza in some dairy herds in the US, the students were unable to visit dairy farms on Thursday as typical to better understand the management systems used on western farms. However, we were fortunate that the program was able to continue as planned. At the National program, 32 teams competed and 84 students participated in the Academy from the US and Canada and five students participated in the social media corps. The Dairy Challenge program on the Columbus campus is coached by Dr. Maurice Eastridge.

 Pictured is the group that travelled to Visalia, CA: Front row –
Alex Tanner (team), Kara Flaherty (team), Juliana Reising (team)
and Back row – Natalie Braun (academy), Dr. Maurice Eastridge
(coach), Garrett Hastings (team), and Molly Cordonnier (academy).