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.

IMG_0319 (1)

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.

IMG_9944 (1)

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!

Posted in Brock Staff | Leave a comment

Impacts of Cal Poly Rodeo

By Katie Rice
Senior, agricultural communication major

Cal Poly Rodeo is considered to be “The Notre Dame of college rodeo.” Over the years the program has obtained more national titles than any other program in the nation. In 1939, the Cal Poly Rodeo program held the first intercollegiate rodeo in Victorville, California. In 1940, the first ever Cal Poly Rodeo was held with 4,000 spectators in attendance. Fast-forward to this past weekend, and the 77th annual Poly Royal Rodeo was held in the Alex G. Spanos Stadium. This event made a statement as the biggest college rodeo in history. The rodeo had a sold out crowd of over 11,000 people.

I became a part of the rodeo team the same time as our head coach, Ben Londo, took over the program. I witnessed this program grow, flourish, and gain support and attraction while under his guidance.

During his first year, there were a mere 18 students on the team. Today, our program is composed of around 65 students. A new pipe arena has been built, new pipe stalls implemented, ground has recently been broken on a livestock and hay barn, and the Milano Family endowment of $1 million has allowed for increased student scholarship support among many other things.

On the Saturday night of the Cal Poly Rodeo, I walked into the stadium with thousands of people surrounding the arena. It was in that moment I was able to look around, and reflect not only on the irreplaceable education Cal Poly has provided me with, but as well as the lessons and experiences of a lifetime I would have never gained without the competition, responsibilities, teammates and coach of this program.

Fellow senior and teammate AnnieRose Seifert explained, “The rodeo program is like having a second family. We take care of each other and cheer each other on both in and out of the arena.” While having 65 other students wanting you to succeed as badly as they want to themselves, our coach Ben and his wife, Becci, are always there to lend a helping hand as well.

Whether it is in the arena, the classroom, or life in general, coach Ben and Becci are there to pick us up when we fall down. They have displayed to all of us on the rodeo team what it means to be a loving and supportive family, which is one of the most important values we could take away from our four years at Cal Poly. These people and experiences are lessons, myself and my fellow teammates, will all carry with us for a lifetime as we leave Cal Poly this June. The Cal Poly Rodeo program is so much more than just a rodeo program.


Posted in Brock Staff | 1 Comment

National Ag Day: Cal Poly Representation

Trent Baldwin
Junior, agribusiness major

To commemorate the 2017 National Ag Day, I flew out to our nation’s capital on Sunday, March 19th to join a hundred other college students representing 38 states. Sponsored by the Agriculture Council of America, National Ag Day intends to raise awareness of the importance of the agriculture industry in America and educate consumers on how their food is produced. The student representative program I was a part of aimed to put a face on agriculture for the legislators we met with on Capitol Hill, and to create a new wave of strong advocates for American agriculture. All students came as a part of a sponsoring organization, either FFA (Future Farmers of America), AFA (Agriculture Future of America), 4-H, or MANNRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, or Related Sciences).

The event began at the National 4-H Center with a session to learn more about the policies which shape the agriculture industry. Students were split into groups along issue based lines, such as immigration and labor, trade, and animal agriculture. Each group had the opportunity to meet with a few staff members from the Hill to receive an insider’s perspective. In my particular group, crops-based agriculture, we met with members working with the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture and the US Rice Federation. The discussion focused on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill and the new administration. Speaking with these professionals gave students the insight into what policies were affecting the industry now, and what they speculated would be implemented soon. Students then developed their advocacy skills by creating their own agricultural story, and learned how to craft an impactful message. The student representatives had all different backgrounds, from urban and rural, from producer families or not.

The next morning on Tuesday, March 21st, the official National Ag Day, all 100 students took on Capitol Hill to represent their home state agriculture industries. The delegation from California consisted of: Mackenzie Carvalho, an Oklahoma State University student originally from Maxwell who attended through AFA, Megan Daniels from Modesto Junior College who attended through California 4-H, Haley Warner from Cal Poly, SLO who attend through AFA and myself, Trent Baldwin attending through 4-H.

Ag Day

After our group pictures in front of the Capitol building, the group went to Senator Feinstein’s office in the Hart building. We were one of many groups meeting with her staff that day- the waiting room had to be extended into the hall. Eventually, we met up with Iain Hart, one of Senator Feinstein’s legislative correspondents. We discussed issues such as Farm Bill funding for research and extension programs, water issues in California, and legislation such as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Hart reassured us that the Senator would always be a supporter of California agriculture and the specialty crops which make our state’s industry so unique to the country.

Next, we met at Representative Jeff Denham’s office in the Longworth Building. Denham’s district spans through parts of the San Joaquin valley region, including Turlock and Modesto. His office environment was friendly. We met with Tracey Chow, legislative assistant, and discussed Representative Denham’s views on immigration, the H2A visa program, and speculation towards the future of agriculture labor in California under the Trump Administration.

To top it off, all 100 students concluded for a pizza lunch in the Longworth building for a presentation on #AgDay365, a movement started by the American Agri-Women. After a quick lesson in social media advocacy and how to be an “agvocate” every day of the year, students said goodbye with long hugs, grabbed leftover pizza in true college fashion, and sprinted towards the bus that would take them back home.

Overall, the was a great opportunity. I am very thankful for this experience!

Posted in Brock Staff | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

26 Hours Event a Success

By Mika Mercado
Junior, agricultural communication major

For the past 26 years, Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) opens its doors to perspective students through a unique program called the 26 Hours Event. Over 80 high school sophomores and juniors attended the event. The program is provided by volunteer students with the Latinos in Agriculture club, under the supervision of Dr. Robert Flores. The two-day event is full of workshops and activities to engage students with hands-on experience of what Cal Poly and CAFES offers them.

Many of these students are minorities and of first-generation backgrounds. An advisor from All Tribes Charter High School in Valley Center, California, said this event helps give her grandsons an idea of university life and the educational opportunities available off the reservation. A Cal Poly alumna, she also commented on the increased diversity in the student population and how Cal Poly feels more welcoming for her grandsons from the reservation and other minority groups.

As for the 26 Hours event, Agriculture Ambassadors helped open the event with ice breakers to help get the students comfortable. Then, faculty all throughout the CAFES departments participated by putting on workshops which ranged from learning about sustainability in soil science with Dr. Chip Appel to animal reproduction with Dr. Fernando Campos-Chillon to robotics with Dr. Liu. Other workshops included solar energy and poultry.

Following the workshops, an open panel of Cal Poly students gave the visiting students an opportunity to ask questions ranging anywhere from college life, social life and financial aid. A fun final touch was learning how to to graft a tree and take it home.

The event was successful and hopefully some of these students from 26 Hours will be at Cal Poly in just a few years!


Posted in Brock Staff | Leave a comment

Cal Poly AG 452 Class in Sacramento

Emma Morris
Junior, agricultural communication major

Each year, 20 students from the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences are nominated by their department heads and then selected by the Dean’s office to take AG 452, “Issues in California Agriculture.” The class focuses on educating students who will soon enter the agriculture industry as professionals about the real issues that agriculture is facing. Students represent all areas of CAFES, from agricultural engineering to dairy science to agricultural communication.


The class is currently taught by Dr. Mark Shelton, and was founded in 2001 by Mr. George Soares. Mr. Soares’ vision for AG 452 was to encourage top students in their field of study to broaden their knowledge of the industry they will soon be entering. The class was started at Cal Poly, but has since been replicated at Fresno State, Chico State, and Cal Poly Pomona.

Each year, students learn from a variety of guest speakers who are leaders in the industry. The range of speakers is broad—from Mr. Mark Borrecco, President and CEO of Rabobank to Mr. Carlos Castaneda, who is a labor contractor for farms throughout California. Each of the speakers brings a new fresh perspective, as well as their own opinions regarding the top issues facing agriculture in the state.

Dr. Shelton starts the quarter by fostering a discussion about what the students think the top four issues facing agriculture are (while acknowledging that there are certainly far more than four in total). Once these four issues are refined, the students are split into groups of five and given the topic that most interests them based on a class survey. These groups are then tasked with developing a presentation about their issue, including a brief explanation of the scope of the problem and potential solutions. The issues chosen this year were agricultural regulations, water (specifically focusing on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), agricultural labor, and agricultural education.

At the end of the quarter, the entire class travels to Sacramento to give a 15-minute presentation of their topics to an audience of industry representatives, state assembly members, and family. This year, the class left for Sacramento on March 5 and returned on March 7. While in the capital, the class toured Mr. Soares’ law office, experienced the Capitol Building and spoke with members of the senate and assembly (and their staff), and were introduced on the assembly floor. Additionally, a number of guest speakers addressed more issues and gave encouragement for the future of the industry. The focus of this year’s trip was on Cal Poly alumni, so many of the speakers were former mustangs.

On the evening of Monday March 6, the class traveled to the State Farm Bureau office in Sacramento and gave the presentations they had worked on all quarter. The topics and solutions were well-received by all in attendance, and a number of pointed questions were asked of the students.

Ag 452 is a fantastic class—perhaps among the top that CAFES offers. It allows young leaders to gain exposure to a myriad of facets of the agriculture industry and shows what it takes to be successful and influential in their future careers.


Posted in Brock Staff | 1 Comment

Striving For the Drive at Western Bonanza 2017

By Caitlin Stanton
Junior, agricultural science major

At the beginning of fall quarter, 29 members of the Western Bonanza Leadership Team gathered in a classroom to begin the months-long process of planning the largest student-run livestock show in the nation. These individuals were hand-picked to plan all aspects of the show from entries to marketing and everything in between. Western Bonanza is student-run under supervision of advisor Hailey-Rose Switzer.


Western Bonanza started as a senior project in 1985 with a beef show. Today, there are four species being shown simultaneously in five rings, and Western Bonanza has become one of the most competitive jackpot shows in the West.

Throughout fall quarter, members of the leadership team begun the process of planning by choosing a theme, settling on “Striving For The Drive.” From there, awards were ordered, sponsors were contacted and entries were opened.

Once winter quarter began, planning was in full swing. More than 100 students enrolled in ASCI 212 (Livestock Show Management), many of them new to Western Bonanza or livestock shows in general. Students were divided into nine committees to support the show. Several workdays were planned and students found themselves at the fairgrounds constructing rings, moving panels and filling sandbags.


As animals filled the fairgrounds on February 16 and 17, exhibitors, parents and supporters arrived, ready to start the weekend. Exhibitors traveled from six states to attend the show, bringing some of the best livestock on the West Coast. On Friday night, a complimentary exhibitor dinner was served followed by clinics sponsored by ShowRite, SureChamp and Sullivan Supply/Stock Show U. Exhibitors also had the opportunity to participate in Sullivan Supply/Stock Show U’s Team Fitting Contest where they had 30 minutes to fit their cattle and compete for bragging rights and prizes.

On both Saturday and Sunday of Western Bonanza, exhibitors were on the grounds early, getting their animals ready for a long day of showing. The cattle show started at 8AM with other species following and most shows did not finish until early evening. While this made for a long day for the Western Bonanza team, many found it to be the most rewarding part. Junior agribusiness major and Awards Committee member Alex Castelanelli said, “handing exhibitors their awards and seeing the smiles on their faces was great.”

After champions were named and awards handed out, Cal Poly students remained to load trailers, take down stalls and clean the fairgrounds. “We were faced with many obstacles this year but the Western Bonanza team was able to pull off a great show” said General Manager Maddie Albiani.

Despite new challenges with the fairgrounds under construction and a powerful winter storm, Western Bonanza once again proved why junior livestock shows are worth the effort. The 33rd Western Bonanza is in the books with Learn by Doing at its best.

Posted in Brock Staff | Leave a comment

World Ag Expo

By Quince Gourley
Sophomore, agricultural communication major

The World Ag Expo has endless opportunities and industries to explore in the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space!  February 14-16, 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.


I attended the World Ag Expo on behalf of the Cal Poly Ag Ambassadors club to represent the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences. Hundreds of students came though the booth who were interested in attending Cal Poly. As Ag Ambassadors, we used an Instagram frame and hashtags for everyone to take pictures with to hopefully increase social media reach.

Speaking of social media, I was lucky to be Cal Poly’s guest Snap-chatter for Wednesday, February 15 of the Expo. Being able to share all of the fun with current, past, and future mustangs was exciting. I featured Ag Ambassadors, perspective students and alumni. The CalPolyStudents Snapchat audience is diverse with 2,500 followers.

The Cal Poly Alumni reception was really neat to attend. I could tell all of the alumni enjoyed reconnecting with one another. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a couple from Northern California. The gentlemen graduated Cal Poly in 1946. We exchanged stories about college, and he told me, “I wish I could go back to Cal Poly”!

It truly was a privilege to attend the World Ag Expo and represent Cal Poly!

Posted in Brock Staff | 1 Comment