I was so incredibly excited to receive the email in March of this year which stated I had been accepted into the US Dairy Education and Training Consortium. It was a program my advisor had recommended to me for since I began my sophomore year and I had also spoken to a pre-veterinary student who attended.

I was one of the closest students to the consortium residing five hours away since it takes place in Clovis New Mexico. Clovis is a city of forty thousand nestled between the Chihuahuan Desert and the plains of Eastern New Mexico. Though Clovis was ideal for many reasons one of the most important was its location relative to the eastern side of New Mexico and West Texas which gives students access to several large dairy herds where they can apply the practical knowledge learned in the classroom.

Each week there was a different focus concerning large scale dairy herd management that we covered in depth. Some of the topics we focused on during the program included but were not limited to utilizing Dairy COMP 305 software, managing genetics, reproduction, animal welfare, milking systems, mastitis and nutrition more effectively on dairy farms. We typically had one to two instructors each week that were experts in their respective fields and either active or emeritus professors. We were divided up into two sessions based upon a combination of our preference and experience so that we received information that was more tailored to our skill and comfort level. Nearly every day we had the opportunity to be hands on at farms and have excellent conversations with dairy farmers about their operations in addition to classroom instruction.  

I was pleasantly surprised to see how diverse our student population was! I wasn’t sure what to expect. In addition to several different accredited universities from the United States that were represented there were also students from other countries including Thailand, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. Dairy farmers use different management techniques to address the unique challenges they face on their farms which vary by location but they all share a vibrant passion for the land, animals and people consuming their product.

As budgets began to be restricted throughout the southwestern region of the United States and elsewhere programs focusing upon dairy science were often the first to be reduced in size or frankly eliminated. To address this growing need Dr. Hagevoort and Dr. Tomazewski suggested a consortium and after many years of working hard to attain funding it became a reality. During our first week Dr. Hagevoort had the opportunity to share the consortium’s mission with us. He probed us with the question, “How can any industry be sustainable if we do not invest in youth that are interested in being a part of its future?” The wonderful staff that supported us throughout this experience and pushed us to meet the challenge of the rigorous course included the fabulous Shelly Spears, Jason White and Mary Lavender.

I was so very blessed to be a part of this opportunity and I made some great friends and met some amazing people! Thanks for reading.

This post was written by Lauren Schlothauer, an Agricultural Communications student at New Mexico State University. To read more about her experiences through USDETC please visit www.daretocultivate.com.

For more background information on how to sponsor this opportunity or apply to attend please visit http://usdetc.tamu.edu/.

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