Department of Animal & Dairy Science students participate at the Midwest Dairy Challenge

From left to right, front row: Sophy Henisz, Kelley Braun
Back row : Ted Halbach, coach, Grace Vos, Clarissa Gross, Kylie Nickels

UW-Madison’s Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences sent five students to the 2023 Midwest Regional Dairy Challenge, hosted by Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville February 15-17 in Dubuque, IA.

Representing UW at the competition were dairy science majors Kelley Braun, Juneau, Wis., Clarissa Gross, Fort Atkinson, Wis., Kylie Nickels, Watertown, Wis., Sophy Henisz, Philadelphia, PA., and Grace Vos, Maribel, Wis. Ted Halbach, UW-Madison distinguished faculty instructor in dairy management coached the students.

The UW students were placed on aggregate teams with students from other Midwest schools of varying interests and backgrounds. Students competed in four, six-team divisions. Henisz and Vos were on winning teams and Nickels was on a team that earned second place.

Starting on the first day, students were given the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on dairy finances, robotic milking technology and herd management software. Later, they received general farm visit information and data to utilize in the presentation they would be building over the next few days. The students were able to meet with their teammates and an industry mentor to bond over dinner and discuss their ideas about their farm’s management and practices.

On the second day, the students traveled to one of three area host dairies for an on-site farm management audit.  Students were given the chance to walk through the farm with an industry mentor and evaluate the different parts of each operation including calf care, milking management, transition pens, feed management, and more. Additionally, students were given the opportunity to ask the producers questions about their farms to gain more information on the overall farm operation. In the afternoon, students took the information they gathered and began to build their farm presentations.

On the final day, the students gave their recommendations to a panel of dairy industry professionals as a 20-minute presentation. The students covered strengths and areas of opportunity for their respective farm. While results were being calculated, students had the opportunity to network with companies that were event sponsors.

NAIDC is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance the progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. The 2023 National Dairy Challenge contest will be held in Saratoga Springs, NY. from March 30 to April 1; details can be found at

The University of Wisconsin Foundation’s David P. Dickson Student Activity Fund sponsored the UW Dairy Challenge team’s travel.