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Students obtain “hands-on” experience through summer dairy program

PD Staff Writer Dario Martinez Published on 29 June 2010

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This article was #11 in PDmag's Top 25 most-well read articles in 2010.

Summary: This online early exclusive article featured photos and highlights from the 2010 Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium, held in Clovis, New Mexico, May 17-June 25. The related article, “Southwest summer dairy program undergoes expansion” was published in the July 21 issue. Both articles spoke to the program’s remarkable accomplishment of doubling enrollment since it began in 2008.

Because this article was so popular, we asked one of the program coordinators, Michael Tomaszewski, a follow-up question:

Q. How many students are you anticipating for the 2011 SGPDC? About how many students who have participated in this program went on to obtain a career in the dairy industry?
A . For the 2011 program, we are planning on 25 to 30 in our first year course and 10 to 15 in our second year course. In 2008, we had 18 students of which 17 have gone to dairy related positions (herd managers, dairy public relations, vet school, dairy lending, etc). In 2009, we had a total of 22 students, with 15 going into dairy related fields.
Michael Tomaszewski, coordinator of Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium


Click here to check out a blog from a past SGPDC participant, Kimmi Devaney.

Click a link below to read other articles in the Top 25:
Sorghum: An economical forage for dairy producers http://bit.ly/PDTop25_12
Running out of time: U.S. must become a global dairy supplier http://bit.ly/PDTop25_13
Should I exit the dairy industry? http://bit.ly/PDTop25_14
Crossbreeding study participants share observations, opinions: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_15
Every herd has metritis: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_16
World Dairy Expo video: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_17
5 Things I can't do without: Darin Dykstra: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_18
Let's agree on a few things about MPCs: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_19
Oregon State cows monitored 24-7: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_20
Brubakers find many benefits with methane digester: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_21
How to adjust rations to incorporate BMR corn silage: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_22
Time to reclaim animal well-being as our issue: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_23
3 open minutes with Doug Maddox and Gary Genske: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_24
3 open minutes with David Martosko of HumaneWatch: http://bit.ly/PDTop25_25

ARTICLE

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Click here to see more photos and read the full version of this article, published in the July 21 issue of Progressive Dairyman .

Students from 11 universities throughout the country participated in the third annual Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium (SGPDC) in Clovis, New Mexico, May 17-June 25.

The program teaches students about large herd dairy management.

Attendance has doubled since the program began; 36 students participated this year, an increase of more than 60 percent from last year.

A vital element of the program is the “hands-on” experience that students are able to obtain. Faculty from across the nation, who specialize in different areas of dairy production, taught daily classroom and lab sections.

“We enforce what is learned in the classroom by tying it in at the dairy farms we visit,” says MikeTomaszewski, a Texas A&M University professor and one of the program coordinators. “Students apply what they learn in real-world situations.”

Courses this year included nutrition, genetics, breeding, facility design, heifer raising and human resource management among others. Tomaszewski says few universities have courses focused in these areas, giving students exposure to this type of educational experience.

062910_sgpdc_micro “We are not just sitting in the classroom,” says Shay McDonald, a senior dairy science major from Texas A&M University. “We are able to get exposure we otherwise would not get.”

The program consisted of two separate student groups. Due to the student enrollment increase, program coordinators implemented new courses this year to accommodate an advanced class consisting of alumni students and students further advanced in their studies than a first-year student.

Matt Lucy and Scott Poock, professors at the University of Missouri, taught during the fourth week of the program. During this week, first-year students learned about herd reproductive function, evaluation and performance, whereas the advanced students learned about heifer management and advanced reproductive management.

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With oversight from Poock and Lucy, students dissected and discussed the internal anatomy of an ovary in the classroom. While visiting a dairy farm near Plainview, Texas, students learned how to use ultrasound technology to observe fetal development, as well as the sexing of fetuses.

Working alongside these professionals, students dissected reproductive tracts, palpated cows to find ovaries and determined the reproductive stage of ovaries. Other activities during the week included observing, testing and analyzing bull fertility.

The advanced student group traveled to a 25,000-head dairy heifer-raising facility near Plainview to learn about heifer management on a large-scale operation.

“This is a unique opportunity because most universities that contributed students to the program have closed their dairy herds,” says Bob Collier, a professor from the University of Arizona. “Students don’t have access to farms. Through this program, they have the opportunity to see the actual operation of commercial dairies which has opened their eyes and some doorways.”

While attending the program, students are able to engage in more than just the topics they study. Networking among each other is also a goal.

062910_sgpdc_learning “Students involved in the program stay in contact with each other,” Collier says. “This is also a bonding experience.”

The program concludes on the sixth week. During this final week, students employed what they learned during the previous weeks as they rode to local dairies with veterinarians and identified problems in dairy cattle.

“This experience is great,” says Jasper DeVos, a student from Plainview, Texas. “I was surprised; I didn’t think the program would be this valuable of an opportunity.” PD

Photos by PD Staff Writer Dario Martinez

For more information about the 2011 Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium, please visit http://sgpdct.tamu.edu . The 2011 application is due February 15 and can be found on the consortium’s website.

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