The 18th Annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) was once again hosted in All West Territory’s Visalia, California on April 12-14th, 2018. Over 230 determined dairy science students, representing over 35 universities from across the nation, traveled to the west coast to compete for the title of North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge National Champions.
This unique two-day competition is the premier event for tomorrow’s dairy leaders. It brings together the best and brightest collegiate students diligently studying for a career in the dairy industry to apply theory and learning to a real-world dairy while working as part of a team. The competition challenges those institutions to inspire their students with a high-quality education, empowering them with the resources for real-world success. This challenge incorporates all facets of a working dairy business in a forum that’s interactive, educational and fun.
Not only do the students put in hard work to make this contest a success, but so do industry members. This year, Van Beek Brothers Dairy, Delta View Farms, Double J Dairy, Ranch Sierra Vista Dairy, Double Oaks Dairy, and RuAnn/Maddox Dairy all donated their time and facilities to serve as dairies for competitive evaluations. Members of the All West family, including Greg Collins, Cris Hatch, Brad Barham, Angie Kennedy, Matt Parreira, and Jesus Toro volunteered for different roles throughout the contest. Select Sires Inc.’s Western Manager of Technical Services, King Smith, served as a judge of the contest, while All West Sales Support Manager, Brad Barham, presented on the topic of utilizing data to maximize genetic improvement. Brad noted that many students were very interested in our genetic audit services, as well as the data and technology of our industry today.
After a fierce competition, our own west coast students from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo were honored to be named National Dairy Challenge Champions. The winning team consisted of Anthony Echeverria of Bakersfield, California, Amber La Salle of Firebaugh, California, Matt Ruby of Scio, Oregon, and Tony Lopes of Gustine, California, and was coached by Cal Poly Dairy Science Professor, Dr. David Vagnoni.
Amber La Salle, 4th year dairy science student and All West Dairy Program Specialist (starting June 2018), reflected on the skills she has gained through competing in Dairy Challenge that will soon be put to use when she enters our industry upon graduation.
“Dairy Challenge helps anyone who becomes involved in the dairy industry. Identifying problems is the easiest part, but it’s solving them and working around specific obstacles of the facility and/or dairyman’s viewpoint that is the challenge. I have continued to be involved in Dairy Challenge because every dairy has different attributes and opportunities to take on. Every dairy was a learning experience and helped me learn more about so many aspects of particular ways of management.”
Her teammate Matt Ruby is also no stranger to All West/Select Sires, as the son of World Wide Sires’ Scott Ruby, who is also a loyal customer of All West as owner of Fir Ridge Holstein Farm LLC.
As Matt also looks forward to his future in the industry, he commented “Dairy Challenge is the most influential event I’ve ever participated in. The ability to walk on a dairy, fully analyze their records and facilities, and come up with recommendations to improve already stellar operations is very difficult. It forces us to use all of the dairy knowledge and skills that each of us has accumulated over our years on our home dairies and at Cal Poly. It makes the experience extremely worthwhile by getting critiques and self-assurance on our ability to improve a dairy based on our team’s knowledge. The competition has prepared me to begin my career in many facets. The networking involved, team bonding, comradery, presentation abilities, and increase in dairy knowledge has prepared me to enter the industry with many new skills.”
Matt admits that working with a team can be challenge but is rewarding as well. “Working with a team of three other distinguished individuals came with its challenges. With so many great minds, it can be difficult to rein everyone in and agree. However, those minds can put together something pretty amazing. This experience taught me a lot about working with different personalities and how to fit my own strengths and weaknesses into a team dynamic.”
Teamwork will certainly be a useful skill for these students to use daily in the dairy industry, whether they go on to manage a dairy of their own, consult dairy producers, or even work in the artificial insemination industry. But for now, they are simply celebrating their success and enjoying the final months of their college experience. “To be able to call myself a platinum winner of Dairy Challenge is the ultimate capstone to four years of hard work at Cal Poly and an entire childhood of engulfing myself in the industry that I love. The feeling was pure euphoria and gratitude for the industry that supports our family’s livelihood,” Matt described.
Other excitement for All West Territory included Fresno State University placing sixth overall in the competition. Playing a key role on their team is All West Relief Technician, Spencer Peck.
It is evident in this group of knowledgeable and passionate young professionals that the future of our industry is bright! Congratulations to all students, from All West Territory and beyond who participate in this year’s great event.
For more information about the Regional & National Dairy Challenge competitions, please visit http://www.dairychallenge.org/