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Penn State’s Dairy Challenge team earns first place

The Penn State Dairy Challenge team, from left, front row: Jennifer Royer and Kristin Bigelow; back row, from left: Coach Dr. Gabriela Varga, Colton Hoffman and Ariel Taxdal.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s Dairy Challenge team earned a first place award at the 13th Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) held April 3-5 in Fort Wayne, Ind. The event was hosted by Purdue University, Michigan State University and the Ohio State University. A total of 264 students from 37 colleges across the U.S. and Canada participated, making it the largest gathering of college students pursuing a dairy career.

Penn State team members representing the Department of Animal Science included Ariel E. Rasmussen-Taxdal, Bel Air, Md,; Colton B. Hoffman, Shinglehouse, Pa.; Jennifer L. Royer, Elizabethtown, Pa.; and Kristin Bigelow, Williamsburg, Pa.

Participants evaluated Perkins Twin Creek Farms, Inc., Wolcottville, Ind., placing first among the eight teams which evaluated the same operating dairy. Gabriella Varga, Ph.D., Emeritus University Distinguished Professor of Animal Science, accompanied the team which also was coached by Lisa Holden, Ph.D., associate professor of dairy science. Each first place student received a $200 scholarship.

Dr. Terry Etherton, head of the Department of Animal Science, said: “I congratulate the students for their first place award in this extremely competitive contest. Their success in analyzing a dairy farm and successfully articulating their evaluation is a tribute not only to their hard work but also to the preparation they received through their coaches and their courses. The practical experience offered through the contest will be invaluable as the students prepare for a career in the industry.”

Dr. Varga commented: “The students represented Penn State with professionalism, an upbeat attitude, and an excellent team effort. We are proud of their outstanding success.”

Seven Penn State students participated in the Dairy Challenge Academy, developed in 2013 to expand this educational and networking event to more college students. Academy student-participants also analyzed and developed recommendations for operating dairies; however, the Academy was organized in mixed-university team format with two advisors to help coach these younger students. Penn State participants were Travis Byers, Chambersburg, Pa.; Gearet FitzPatrick, Kensington, Md,; Brandon Grumbine, Bethel, Pa.; Chad Horst, Newmanstown, Pa.; Donald Rice, Kempton, Pa.; Evan Snyder, Pitman, Pa.; and Evan H. Yoder, Huntingdon, Pa.

Penn State’s team was supported, in part, by a Dairy Challenge endowment established by Department of Animal Science alumnus Clifton Marshall and by contributions from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the Center for Dairy Excellence and the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association.