April 20, 2010

Cornell Team Takes Top Prize in Dairy Competition

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After two hectic days of competing against 29 teams and 120 students from other colleges across the nation, a team composed of four Cornell students won first place — the “Platinum Award” — at the ninth annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge on Apr. 10 in Visalia, Calif.

The winning team members, coached by Prof. Mike Van Ambugh,  animal science, were Breanna Fulper ’10, Brett Feldpausch ’10, Chad Wall ’10 and Shane Reynolds ‘10. Each of the students won a $200 scholarship.

For the two months leading up to the Dairy Challenge, the team began “loading up on knowledge and reading tons of research papers from the Cornell Animal Science Department,” Reynolds  said. “[The team] periodically met in the mornings to do mock trials, went to farms to make assessments, and practiced doing presentations and discussing the issues with [one another].”

At the dairy challenge, each team received information about a working dairy, conducted an inspection of the farm, interviewed the herd managers and developed a final analysis on the operations. The team presented its analysis — which included recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management — to a panel of judges. The judges included a dairy business owner and experts in dairy nutrition, herd health, reproduction and financial management, and they judged each team based on its analysis of the operation, recommendations and overall presentation.

What separated the Cornell team from the pack was the “diversity of knowledge,” according to Reynolds.

“Based on what the judges told us, what separated us was the diversity of our team, particularly our knowledge from the various business and consulting courses.”

Prof. Van Ambugh also attributed their success to the dynamics of the team. He noted, “[They] worked really well together as a team, and they understood each other’s strengths and weaknesses. [Also] these guys love what they do and have a very good  understanding of the quantitative aspects of business decision-making of dairy farms.”

The purpose of the NAIDC is to give college students the opportunity “to apply theory and knowledge to a real-world dairy, while working as part of a team,” the press release for the event stated. Developed by both professionals from the dairy industry and university educators, the dairy challenge helps students garner real world knowledge and experience to prepare for future dairy careers.

“The dairy challenge brings the future of the dairy industry together in one location where knowledge and experiences are shared and gained, and where they gain a broader perspective of the market we participate in.”  said Barry Putnam, the NAIDC chairman and distract sales manager at Genex Cooperative, Ithaca, in a press release. “That is why the Dairy Challenge is so highly thought of by all of those who have participated throughout our history of now just over 2,000 future leaders.”

Shane noted, “[The Dairy Challenge] was really a great, rewarding experience. It was so practical — not only in terms of real-life experience because it gave us the chance to be like a group of consultants — but also because we were able to meet prominant figures in the industry, so it also helped with networking.”

Original Author: Melissa Kim