UW–Madison Dairy Science Students Win First Place at National Dairy Challenge

VISALIA, CA. – Students from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences took first place at the National Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, held April 4 – 6 in Visalia, CA.

Dairy Challenge is an applied dairy management competition that requires students to analyze a commercial farm and present their observations and management recommendations to a panel of industry professionals. Judges include dairy producers, veterinarians, farm finance specialists and agribusiness personnel. Eight teams of four students compete against each other on four contest dairy farms. 

Over 128 students from 32 teams completed on-farm analysis, with just two hours to visit and observe the farm’s operation. After a question-and-answer session with the farm owners and advisors, the student teams developed recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, cow comfort, and labor and financial management. The UW–Madison winning team also had the highest team score in the entire competition. The team included Nicole Broege, of Janesville, Wis., Anastasia McCourt, of Fond du Lac, Wis., Melissa Konkel, of Sharon, Wis., and Luke McCullough, of Monroe, Wis. They were coached by Eric Ronk, Teaching Faculty I, along with support from current and recently retired faculty/staff in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences.

The team analyzed River Ranch Dairy in Hanford, CA. The farm milks 5,600 cows, raises 5,000 youngstock on their facility and has over 68 full-time employees. 

From left to right in 1st row: Nicole Broege, Anastasia McCourt, Melissa Konkel, from left to right 2nd row: Luke McCullough, Brianna Wanek, Eric Ronk (Coach), and Zachary Olson.

On the River Ranch Dairy (Dairy B) Michigan State University placed second. Other teams that competed on this farm were: California Polytechnic State University, University of Guelph, Kansas State University, The Ohio State University, University of Mount Olive, and an aggregate team consisting of students from Iowa State University/North Carolina State University/ University of Tennessee and Virgnia Tech. 

In addition, two other UW–Madison students competed on aggregate teams in Dairy A (River Ranch Dairy) and Dairy D (Flint Dairy) with teammates from other universities and won awards. Brianna Wanek, of Cashton, Wis., was on a winning aggregate team on Dairy A with students from Delaware Valley University, the Pennsylvania State University, University of New Hampshire. Zachary Olson, of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., was on a second-place aggregate team on Dairy D with students from Alfred State College/Cornell and New Hampshire. 

UW–Madison students represented well with all six students winning awards at the national contest.