Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

1308 PD: Preparing today to lead tomorrow’s industry

Published on 29 August 2008

Many agricultural college students across the country spent the summer break developing their talents, making industry contacts and preparing for a career following graduation. Meet eight of these hardworking and dedicated youth and learn about how their internship experiences have been both educational and beneficial.

Austin Copenhaver, a senior at Cornell University majoring in animal sciences, spent his summer at Columbia River Dairy, a 16,000-cow operation near Boardman, Oregon. The Holstein and Jersey dairy is part of a larger, multi-business operation called Threemile Canyon Farms ( Austin was mostly responsible for the Holstein unit. He assisted in managerial tasks including herd improvement projects and working with breeders and the hospital crew. He says he was also able to improve his communication and herdsman skills.



University of Arizona senior Eric Hibbard is earning a degree in agribusiness economics and management. He interned at the University of Arizona’s Agricultural Research Center under Dr. Robert Collier. He was responsible for feeding, vaccinating and taking care of the center’s dairy cows and sheep. He says he especially enjoyed being able to “pick the brains” of professors and fellow co-workers to discover more efficient and effective ways to carry out his duties.

Nicole Hutsell is earning a degree in economics and international studies at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and will graduate in December of 2009. She interned at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Department of Economic Analysis in Washington, D.C. She spent her summer collecting and analyzing data about agricultural issues, including the food versus fuel debate. She says her experience helped her to prepare for her current internship with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service at the Chengdu, China Agricultural Trade Office.

A senior at the University of Missouri, Sarah Jackson is majoring in agricultural journalism and minoring in animal science. May through August of 2007, she was an editorial intern at Hoard’s Dairyman. This past summer, she served as a corporate communications intern with Dairy Farmers of America in Kansas City, Missouri. She was responsible for writing press releases as well as articles for the DFA Leader. Sarah says she appreciated the opportunity to work for one of the leading dairy cooperatives in the industry.

Amy Miller, a junior in animal sciences at Penn State University, interned at Golden Oaks Farm in Wauconda, Illinois. Amy was responsible for day-to-day care of the 700-cow milking herd and 525 young stock. She was also able to teach showmanship and fitting skills to 4-H club members at Wagner Farms, a historical and educational farm that leases animals from Golden Oaks. Amy says she especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with Sunshine Genetics during embryo transfers.

In December 2009, Craig Niemann will graduate from South Dakota State University with a degree in dairy production and minors in agricultural business and agricultural marketing. He spent his summer interning at Valsigna Farms, a 2,400-cow Jersey operation in Hilmar, California. Craig was one of seven interns to be selected for the Hilmar Dairy Internship. As part of the program, Craig completed specific learning goals each week, which required him to demonstrate knowledge in areas such as reproduction, parlor and manure management.


Cameron Prince is a senior at the University of Georgia and is majoring in agriscience and environmental systems. Cameron spent six months interning with Pioneer Hi-Bred International in Cairo, Georgia. Cameron says his responsibilities varied from day-to-day, but he often assisted with “tasks mainly involving the backcrossing of genetic traits in corn.” He also helped map GPS coordinates for material required by USDA, and he collected both quantitative and qualitative data of different plant varieties.

A senior at Virginia Tech University, Malorie Rhoderick is majoring in dairy science with a minor in professional writing. As an intern at Alta Genetics in the Midwest region, Malorie spent most of her summer working with the Alta Advantage program, which she says is the most progressive young sire proving program in the U.S. She was able to learn about the A.I. industry and each job position within her host company. Malorie says the most beneficial portion of the internship was completing a final project where she evaluated two dairy farms’ breeding programs.

These students have also provided Progressive Dairyman with their advice and suggestions for students looking for opportunities next summer.

Panel discussion:

How did you hear about your internship?

COPENHAVER: A professor at Cornell encouraged me to apply for the internship.


HIBBARD: I found out about my internship through Dr. Collier, a professor at the University of Arizona.

HUTSELL: I found this internship on the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s career services website.

JACKSON: I found my internship on the National Dairy Shrine website. (

MILLER: I heard about my internship from a friend and checked it out on the farm’s website. (

NIEMANN: I learned about my internship on the Hilmar Dairy Internship website. (

PRINCE: I learned about the internship through the company website as well as through friends who have held and currently hold positions within the company.

RHODERICK: I heard about the internship at a function sponsored by Alta at World Dairy Expo.

Panel discussion:

What are your plans following graduation?

Copenhaver: I would like to work in dairy management somewhere in the U.S. for two to five years. Then I plan to return to Pennsylvania to start my own dairy, possibly in partnership with another person.

Hibbard: I would like to own and operate my own dairy farm. Hutsell: I’m considering enrolling in law school or an economics graduate program. I hope to pursue an internationally focused career related to economics and agriculture.

Jackson: My career goal is to become an editor for a national dairy magazine.

Miller: I would like to work for a breed organization or an A.I. company and possibly return to Pennsylvania to farm.

Niemann: I would like to become a herd manager and eventually own my own dairy.

Prince: I want to pursue a career in the seed technology field in order to supply America’s farmers with superior crop genetics that will allow for optimal profit.

Rhoderick: I plan to work in the dairy industry with an A.I. company or in dairy journalism. Eventually, I would like to become a reproductive consultant, either independently or for a company.

How has your internship helped to prepare you for your plans?

Copenhaver: Filling in for a full-time assistant manager and completing managerial duties helped me to understand how to manage and organize people as well as cows. I learned a lot of specific herdsman skills and improved my Spanish-speaking skills. I was fortunate enough to meet and create relationships with some of the leaders and visionaries in the dairy industry.

Hibbard: I have learned ample amounts about how to treat animals, identify problems and fix situations. I have also learned how to cooperate with other people’s opinions and attitudes in the workplace in order to get the job completed in a timely manner.

Hutsell: I have gained a better understanding of the political process, agricultural hot topic issues and career opportunities related to economics and agriculture.

Jackson: Both of my internship experiences have allowed me the opportunity to hone my writing and photography skills while making important dairy industry contacts and learning more about the dairy industry.

Miller: My internship gave me the opportunity to see firsthand how a large-scale dairy is able to market superior genetics, domestically and internationally, while maintaining the business of milk production.

Niemann: I feel I have strengthened my overall knowledge of day-to-day operations on a commercial dairy farm. In addition, I have a greater understanding of the thought process behind running a larger dairy.

Prince: My internship allowed me multiple perspectives of the [agricultural] industry and has exposed me to the many different tasks and procedures that must be executed to perform the job.

Rhoderick: This internship helped increase my knowledge of the dairy industry in the U.S. It also helped in my development, both professionally and personally, by improving my human relations skills with dairymen and others within the company.

Why do you think it is important for youth in the dairy industry to obtain a summer internship?

Copenhaver: Contacts and relationships made during internships can last a lifetime and create more opportunities in the future. Going into an internship with an open mind, a positive attitude and a desire to learn will help college students to gain confidence, grow as a person and jumpstart a successful career in the modern dairy industry.

Hibbard: Being around professionals while being submerged into assorted establishments is the best preparation and learning tool available.

Hutsell: The insight, perspective and practical work experience gained are invaluable assets that certainly make summer internships a worthwhile experience for anyone – no matter what career path or field of study.

Jackson: In order for young people to learn to adapt quickly to the ever-changing dairy industry, real-world experience before graduation is a necessity. Internships provide an ideal setting to gain experiences in a chosen area of expertise, while also making extra money and making contacts that can help when looking for a job.

Miller: An internship provides you with skills and knowledge you can’t learn in the classroom as well as contacts to help you determine a career after college. Internships also offer the understanding you need within the industry, yet the experience is usually outside of what you’re accustomed to.

Niemann: It is important for students to get a hands-on experience in the industry. The classroom can only teach a person so much; dairying is not an exact science.

Prince: Internships are vital to agricultural students and youth because they allow for industry exposure, networking and the possibility of job security after graduation. Some institutions allow and possibly require students to earn course credit through internships.

Rhoderick: No matter the length of time, an internship provides the opportunity to expand your knowledge, to grow as an individual and to decide if it is the job you want in the future. If you are a dairy youth wanting to return home to the farm, don’t worry because the cows will still be there when you return. Everyone does things a little differently, and you will always learn something new and exciting! PD