Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

1408 PD: Student 3 understands the large-herd, commercial cow better than her cohorts

Howard Manlove Published on 29 September 2008

Please understand that my selection of Student 3 comes from my perspective as the manager of a large commercial dairy operation.

Since I have to make this decision based on a single picture, I’ve taken license to use my imagination and complete the description of this candidate.



She isn’t afraid to get dirty, and sometimes you have to be willing to get dirty on a dairy farm. And to get that dirty, we have a tendency to work long, hard hours in all kinds of weather. Perhaps that is why so few college graduates are interested in working on the farm. Regardless of whether or not the student‘s dairy industry career is on the farm, it will benefit her to know what daily life on the farm is like.

She will be very familiar with actual dairy cows. While Internet searches, textbooks and the show ring have some value, milk does come from dairy cows that live on dairy farms. It is hard for me to imagine someone pursuing a career in the dairy industry without at some point developing an admiration for the dairy cow and the products that come from her milk.

But my candidate has more than a love of cows. She wants to understand the high-producing dairy cow and know what makes her happy, healthy and productive. She has learned what challenges this cow faces on a commercial dairy farm. She is learning how to help the cow when she is sick or injured, and she wants to help her improve her reproductive performance. She realizes that the more she understands about this cow, the better chance she has to help her fit into a complex relationship with people and equipment successfully.

This student also realized that she needed more than a part-time job at the university dairy to help her understand modern dairy farming. So she spent a couple summers working on a large commercial dairy farm. She found the speed and intensity of that operation almost astonishing. But she has been able to improve her practical knowledge and skills. Regardless of where her future leads her in the dairy industry, she will have a personal understanding of the challenges faced every day on the front lines of modern dairy production.

Working on that large dairy farm also has helped her improve her people skills. She has learned to work with other employees as a member of a team. She even enjoyed the challenge of improving her Spanish-language skills. It is much easier to learn when you get to use it everyday.


She also has realized that if she chooses a future in dairy farm management, she will need to be able to manage cows through people. And if you think managing cows is complex, wait until you try managing employees. But she has an advantage already because she understands the challenges those employees face everyday. And she is already thinking of things she can do to help her employees be successful.

This student has the background to help her be successful anywhere in the dairy industry. She could choose marketing, genetics, nutrition, large-animal veterinarian, journalism, research, academia or dairy management. She already has a better understanding of modern dairy operations than many of the people in those fields. She simply needs to choose the area she is most interested in and pursue the specialized training or education needed. PD

Howard Manlove
Herd Manager

“I learned more on my internships through college than I ever did in a classroom.”
– Clay Papoi, ABS Global