Dairy Challenge Competition

By Darby Toth
Senior, Dairy Science with an agricultural communication minor

For many students, the Dairy Challenge competition is considered the capstone of their time at Cal Poly. It’s a culmination of hands on skills, knowledge, and the ability to work on a team. Dairy Challenge not only allows students to utilize their practical skills, but brings them closer together as a student body within their Dairy Science major.  Enrolling in the DSCI-412 or “Dairy Farm Consultation” class equates to long Fridays spent traveling to dairy farms in the central valley and countless hours poring over dairy comp 305, the software that dairy farmers use to manage herd records.untitled-0044 (1)

This class and competition was great way to further immerse myself into the industry that I have grown up around. Surrounded by family in the dairy industry, I have had a lifelong passion for the understanding of the industry as well as a passion for advocating on the behalf of California dairies.

The Dairy Challenge competition itself is a three-day event which begins with the distribution of a dairy farm’s herd records and financial information. Students analyze the records and seek areas of opportunity to examine the next day on farm. The following morning the team travels to the competition dairy and spends time working together to analyze the farm. Students look at things such as cow comfort, overall herd health, milking procedures, and feed management.

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Frankie Gambonini and Cal Poly Aluni Mackenzie Gomes

Following the on farm evaluation, students have four hours to create a twenty-minute presentation outlining the overall dairy information and areas of opportunity for the dairy. The presentation is given to a panel of judges consisting of dairy industry professionals, followed by questions from the judges.

During winter quarter of this year, sixteen Cal Poly seniors enrolled in the dairy challenge class and drove to Twin Falls, Idaho with Mr. Rich Silacci and Dr. Julie Huzzey, the team coaches, to compete in the regional contest. The regional contest places students on aggregate teams with students from other universities in the western region. The trip included forty hours in a van, four hours stranded in a blizzard, and two full days of competition.  What an experience!


After the regional contest, the national team was chosen along with two students chosen to compete on aggregate teams. The Cal Poly team for this year’s national competition in Visalia, CA consisted of Katie Migliazzo, Frankie Gambonini, Marilyn Van Beek, and Bryson Wind. Elizabeth Russell and Emma Sills were the two aggregate team members. The Cal Poly team placed third in the competition, as did Elizabeth Russell and her aggregate team. Cal Poly students Emily Rosa, Emily Janowski, and I served as social media interns for the duration of the national contest.

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Looking back on my time spent in the class and competition, I have never been prouder to be a Cal Poly Mustang. My classmates around me pushed me to truly utilize all the skills that I have learned over my college career. The class taught skills that have allowed me to feel truly competent to enter the dairy industry following graduation, and created lasting relationships that will continue after Cal Poly!

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