Preparing for dairy careers

Now Media Group


Fifty-four students from six universities and colleges throughout the western U.S. and Canada traveled to Tulare, California, for the 11th annual Western Dairy Challenge Feb. 25-27. Headquarters for the contest was the College of the Sequoias Tulare campus.

The Western Dairy Challenge is a three-day educational competition designed to prepare students for dairy careers. Working in mixed-university teams of four or five students, participants assessed all aspects of a working dairy farm, including facilities, nutrition, financials, reproduction and animal health.

Students collaborated on a 20-minute team presentation that detailed their observations and suggestions to a panel of judges. Teams were ranked based on how well their evaluations matched the judges' evaluations of the dairy operation.

On Thursday, students listened to a financial seminar on how to read balance sheets and income and expense statements given by David Hill and Landon Fernandes of Farm Credit West. They also participated in a team building activity led by Dairy Challenge alumni. As part of the team-building, students assembled children's wagons, which were later donated to the local Lighthouse Rescue Mission.

Manuel, Alda, Jonathon and Jessica Lawrence welcomed the teams to their dairy on Friday and participated in a question-and-answer session with students. Several sponsors attending the event networked with and mentored the students over the weekend.

Students made observations and presented them to a panel of judges made up of a nutritionist, a veterinarian, a financer and a dairy producer who ranked them on their conclusions and performance.

Platinum teams

Team Lassen: Randy J. Edwards, Antoinette M. Silva, Cal Poly State University; Lindsey Richmond, Washington State University; Allison V. Stevens, University of Idaho; Sarah Pletts, University of Alberta.

Team Santiago: Annalicia M. Luis, Collin P. Fernandes, John A. Schoneveld, Cal Poly State University; Zachary D. Reynolds, University of Idaho; Maite Muse, Washington State University.

Team Diablo: Kathleen A. Migliazzo, Marlena M. Wagner, Cal Poly State University; Brennan Ribeiro, Texas A&M University; Kimberly R. Ware, University of Idaho; Chance Boyer, Utah State University.

Gold teams

Team Eagle Peak: Justine V. DeVries, Jacquelyn D. Kasbergen, Cal Poly State University; Lani Martin, University of Idaho; Quincy Sadowski, Utah State University; Casey Morey, University of Alberta.

Team Telescope Peak: Francesca A. Gambonini, Alison S. Sherman, Cal Poly State University; Lauren DeJong, Texas A&M University; Cody McCary, Utah State University; Kathleen Murphy, University of Alberta.

Team Boulder: Davis L. Neary, Marilyn W. Van Beek, Cal Poly State University; Mai Nguyen, University of Idaho; Melanie Boros, University of Alberta; Austin Sears, Utah State University.

A committee of dairy industry representatives organized the Challenge. A long list of volunteers was important to the competition's success. To volunteer or become a sponsor for the 2017 contest, contact Cathy Myers at or Renee Smith at All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Contributing sponsor listings are available on the website.

The Western Dairy Challenge is under the guidance and support of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, which was established in April 2002 as a management contest to incorporate evaluation of all aspects of a specific dairy business. For more information, visit The regional event leads to the national contest of the same format, held April 7–9 in Syracuse, NY.