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EAST LANSING, MI -- Four Michigan State University (MSU) graduating seniors were among 274 students representing 38 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada who competed in the 14th annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) held April 9-11 in Liverpool, NY. This year's event was hosted by the Northeast Dairy Challenge Committee. Students who participated in this event are training for future careers in the dairy industry ranging from producers, researchers and educators to financial analysts, animal nutritionists, farm service providers and veterinarians.

Students representing MSU were Samantha Mamarow, animal science major from Saline; Malissa Reed, agribusiness management student from Owosso; Garrett Slavik, animal science student from Ashley; and Carmen Zwemmer, animal science major from Elkton. Dr. Joe Domecq from the MSU Department of Animal Science traveled with the team to the competition.

Dairy Challenge is an innovative two-day competition for students representing dairy science programs at North American universities. It enables students to apply theory and learning to a real-world dairy, while working as part of a four-person team. In its 14-year history, Dairy Challenge has helped train more than 4,700 students through the national contest, Dairy Challenge Academy and four regional contests conducted annually.

Collegiate participants visited six New York dairy farms as part of their training to help farmers evaluate and adapt management for optimizing success and animal care. In addition, industry professionals made presentations focused on cutting-edge research, new programs and career opportunities to the students.

On the first day of the Dairy Challenge, each team received information for a working dairy operation. Armed with production and farm management records, students conducted a walk-through inspection of their assigned dairy farm before having an opportunity to interview the farm's herd managers. Team members then evaluated the information collected from the interviews, on-site inspection and farm-generated reports to develop a farm analysis and presentation that included recommendations for improving animal nutrition, reproduction efficiency, milking procedures, animal health, housing and finances.

The contest culminated with teams presenting their findings and recommendations to and fielding questions from a panel of judges that included dairy producers and industry experts in animal health, farm finance, nutrition and reproduction. Team scores were awarded based on the accuracy of the analysis and recommendations, and awards were presented at a banquet.

This year's event also marked the third Dairy Challenge Academy. This extension of the NAIDC was developed in 2013 to expand the educational and networking opportunities to more college students. Academy participants also analyzed and developed recommendations for operating dairies. Instead of working on teams made up of members all from the same college or university, however, teams were organized as mixed-university teams with two advisors assigned to help coach these younger students.

Eight MSU students participated in the Dairy Challenge Academy: Bart Dekker, animal science junior from Ubly; Paul Dunneback, a second-year MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology dairy management program student from Grand Rapids; T.J. Frahm, animal science junior from Frankenmuth; Ethan Haywood, animal science freshman from Hastings; Bridget Moore, animal science senior from Sears; Cara Perkins, a second-year MSU dairy management student from Hudson, Ind.; Laura Small, animal science senior from Smiths Creek; and Brittni Tucker, animal science junior from Elsie.

The North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge was established as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. Its mission is to facilitate education, communication and the exchange of ideas between students, agribusiness representatives, dairy producers and universities to further the development of the dairy industry and foster growth of new industry leaders. The program is supported financially through donations from 120 dairy businesses and producers and coordinated by a volunteer board of directors.

The MSU Dairy Challenge program is generously sponsored by: ABS Global, ADM Alliance Nutrition, AIS Equipment, Caledonia Farmers Elevator, Cargill Animal Nutrition, Dairy Farmers of America, Diamond V, Falmouth Cooperative, Genex, Merck Animal Health, the Michigan Milk Producers Association, Nietzke & Faupel P.C., Nobis Agri Service, NorthStar Cooperative & Antel Bio, Prince Agri Products, Purina Animal Nutrition, and Vita Plus Corporation. Significant support is also provided by the Michigan Dairy Memorial and Scholarship Foundation, the Roger and Marjorie Mellenberger Dairy Associates Program Enhancement Fund and the Frederick Pierce Halbert Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund at MSU.

Visit www.dairychallenge.org or www.facebook.com/DairyChallenge for more details on regional and national NAIDC events. For more information about MSU participation in the MSU Dairy Challenge, the Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge or the National Dairy Challenge, contact Dr. Miriam Weber Nielsen in the MSU Department of Animal Science at 517-432-5443.

Cornell University will host the 2016 NAIDC and Dairy Challenge Academy April 7-9 in Syracuse, NY.

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