Dairy science students recognized at national management contest

UW Madison
UW–Madison dairy science students earned second place honors at the National North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge Contest in March 2019. Team members and coaches included (left to right): Ted Halbach, coach; Danielle Warmka; Rachel Gerbitz; Riley Miller; Zach Lensmire; and David Combs, coach.

Students from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Dairy Science earned second place honors at the National North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge Contest, held this spring in Tifton, Georgia.

Four-person teams from 36 universities competed at the event. The team from UW–Madison included Rachel Gerbitz, Milton, Wis.; Zach Lensmire, Cleveland, Wis.; Riley Miller, Orfordville, Wis.; and Danielle Warmka, Fox Lake, Wis.. They were coached by Ted Halbach, faculty associate in dairy management, and David Combs, professor of dairy nutrition and management.

“Our team was assigned to a modern 7,000 cow dairy that lacked individual cow milk records which really complicated the records analysis process,” says Halbach. “Even without that data, they were able to identify the dairy’s key issues and came up with a set of recommendations that, if implemented, I’m confident would contribute to the producer’s bottom line.”

The team made recommendations that focused on improving the farm’s feeding management, heifer reproduction performance and labor training and efficiency.

“What a privilege it is to work closely with students that have passion and a desire to learn like these four. Dave (Combs) and I couldn’t be prouder of their performance,” says Halbach.

Dairy Challenge is an applied dairy management competition that involves students analyzing a commercial farm and presenting their observations and management recommendations to a panel of industry professionals. Judges include dairy producers, veterinarians, farm finance specialists and agribusiness personnel.

The first place team for the farm UW–Madison evaluated was California Polytechnic State University. Other schools competing on this farm included: Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Florida, University of Maine at Orono, University of Mount Olive, Eastern Kentucky University and an aggregate team.

“We are very proud of our Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge team for their fine performance in Georgia,” says Kent Weigel, chair of the Department of Dairy Science. “On behalf of the department, I would like to thank the event sponsors and planning committee for providing such an excellent, hands-on learning experience for our students.”