University of Guelph OAC students win dairy competition.
U of G student team members with their coaches (l-r): Prof. Ken Leslie, Courtney O’Neill, Kevin Reijnen, Myranda Morrison, Laura Donkers, Mark Carson and Prof. John Walton.

A team of U of G students earned top honours at the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge (NAIDC) held in Syracuse, New York, April 9-11. It is the fifth win for Guelph in 10 years.

OAC fourth-year students Laura Donkers, Myranda Morrison, Courtney O’Neill and Kevin Reijnen competed against teams from eight other schools and came up with the best plan to improve farm efficiency.

During the annual event, teams visit and evaluate a dairy farm business and prepare a presentation of recommended management enhancements, including suggestions for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, housing and financial management.

The dairy challenge began in 2002. This year, 32 teams competed in four farm groups. The other first-place winners were California Polytechnic State University, Washington State University and University of Tennessee.

U of G is one of only a few universities offering a credit course to prepare students for the challenge. In the course, students visit dairy farm operations and learn how to analyze management programs, feed analysis and herd health reports to recommend ways to make operations more efficient and profitable. They prepare a presentation based on their findings, with the top four students chosen to compete in the NAIDC. Retired U of G professors John Walton and Ken Leslie, along with alumnus Mark Carson, teach the course and coach the team.

“None of this would have been possible without the help and guidance of John Walton, Ken Leslie and Mark Carson,” says Reijnen. “These three have given me one of the most informative learning opportunities at university through the dairy challenge class. It is one of the backbone courses for anyone who is looking to enter the dairy industry because of its ability to connect theory to practical applications.”