How’s it going, All West? I took a mid-July week-long hiatus from my internship to attend the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) sixth Jersey Youth Academy, in Columbus, Ohio. The AJCA selects 36 college and high school students from around the nation, based on an application due December 1st, with a high level of involvement in the Jersey breed favored, but not required.

The Academy was six action-packed days, full of all things Jersey: from marketing dairy products as value-added Jersey milk, to understanding how elite genomics can be combined with a commercial dairy operation. The program provides a unique, educational experience, preparing youth for careers in the dairy industry, specifically relating to Jersey cattle and/or Jersey products. But it doesn’t just expose participants to a myriad of Jersey-related professional opportunities. It also helps them to understand the long history and recent growth of the Jersey breed.

Monday began with introductions and welcomes, specifically from AJCA and NAJ Presidents, AJCA Executive Secretary Neil Smith, and a keynote address from Russell Gammon, past head of Jersey Canada and an honorary member of the AJCA. These individuals provided us with a wealth of information about where the Jersey breed was 50 years ago; the progress in quality of dairy cow since then, and why the future of the breed is so bright. It is truly motivating to have leaders of the dairy business put faith in the next generation, guiding us to achieve success in careers available in the industry. In the afternoon, we hopped on a bus and headed northeast to tour Pearl Valley Cheese and Velvet Ice Cream. Both facilities were at the forefront of searching out consumer demand and creating it when needed. It was evident that the Jersey cow is the future for businesses like these, as they utilize solid milk components in product development. I was happy to hear that Pearl Valley sources milk from all sizes of farms supporting small, family-owned and-operated dairies along the way.

Tuesday we toured Albright Jerseys, a Jersey dairy at the forefront of automated technology with nine Lely A4 robots milking around 600 cows, and Pine Tree Dairy, owned and operated by the many members of the Steiner family. Pine Tree is well known in the dairy world for having elite genomic animals in the Holstein and Jersey breeds. It was interesting to watch the IVF process and see how large families spanning multiple generations can cooperate well on a dairy farm. Setting goals and having each person specialize in a unique area is key to their success.

Wednesday offered multiple opportunities for learning, including talks from various Jersey staff. Topics covered included reading performance pedigrees, understanding milk marketing orders, and professional development. We also took a look at the beautiful brown cows at the Ohio State University dairy facility and practiced doing linear appraisals, one of my favorite parts of the week. It gave me a chance to combine my knowledge from SMS evaluations at All West to appraisals, and see the parallels between both programs.

Thursday was a favorite day for many of us, as we traveled to Select Sires headquarters outside Columbus and heard talks from Jersey leaders there. It was a fantastic opportunity to extend our knowledge about the A.I. industry and consider how to set and achieve goals in the workplace. As an agricultural economics student, I enjoyed listening to Adam Oswalt discuss balancing production with markets. We also were able to witness a bull parade and see some of the top selling Jersey bulls of all time: 7JE1038 VALENTINO, 7JE5004 CHROME, and 7JE1219 OLIVER-P. In the afternoon we went to Woodruff Dairy, a business with a niche market in bottling and plans for expansion in the coming months, and Young’s Jersey Dairy, where they go beyond the cows to provide agri-tourism. At Young’s, the Jersey Marketing Service staff put together a mock auction for us to practice our financial judgements on genomic and show heifers, as well as forming syndicates with fellow buyers. I’ll proudly state that my team purchased the highest genomic heifer as a syndicate at a bargain price, but we may have overestimated the value of an unfreshened 2-year-old. Definitely a fun learning experience all-around, with the mock auction. Big shout-out to the passionate ring men, Neal Smith and Brennan Topp!

Our final day at academy was spent at the AJCA-NAJ offices, focusing on the people behind the organization. We learned who schedules appraisal stops and how data analytics help herd view recordings, and saw the board room where the Jersey genetic progress started.

To say it was a week filled with “opportunity of a lifetime” moments would be an understatement! I enjoyed making connections with like-minded youth from around the nation, as well as with industry professionals who are passionate about the work they do. The knowledge gained is invaluable and can be applied to any dairy or ag-related work I do in the future. A huge thanks to the many breeders and industry supporters of this event: your financial contributions are quite literally changing lives. Also, I appreciate that the All West team allowed me a week off to take advantage of this opportunity. While Jersey Youth Academy focuses on one breed, I urge any youth with an interest in dairy to apply for the Seventh Academy, which will be held in July, 2021.

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