The 2020 Southern Regional Dairy Challenge was a virtual event for the first time ever, hosted by the University of Florida.  Virginia Tech fielded 2 teams -   Team 11 consisted of Isabelle Leonard, Jacob McGehee, Tanner Hodges, and Todd Allen (their industry mentor was Sarah Baynard, DASC 2019).  Team 12 consisted of Cady McGehee, Catherine Savage, Jessi Jordan, and John McGehee (team mentor was Kayla Alward, DASC PhD student).  Dr. Katharine Knowlton, Ms. Leticia Campos, Dr. Gonzalo Ferreira, and Dr. Alex White served as “unofficial” mentors for each team.

This year’s SRDC was spread over a 4-week period instead of the usual 3-day event.  The students were provided with the farm information and records in mid-September.  They had two educational sessions each week with industry speakers on dairy records, finance, nutrition, reproduction, udder health, and applied decision making.  Throughout the 4-week period the students worked with their mentors and faculty members to analyze the case farm and develop their recommendations to improve the farm.  Each team put together a 20-minute video of the presentation of their recommendations for the judging panel.  After reviewing the videos from each team in the competition, the judges held Q&A sessions with each team and provided feedback to each team.

Both VT teams were in the same division of the competition.  Team 12 (Cady, Catherine, Jessi, and John) placed first in their division due to their depth of analysis and professionalism.  Team 11 (Isabelle, Jacob, Tanner, and Todd) placed in the top 4 of the division.  As their “coaches” for SRDC, we could not be more pleased with each team’s hard work, depth of analysis, positive attitude, and professionalism throughout the entire event!  We are also very proud of our students for their patience and adaptability as they coped with an unchartered format for the inaugural “virtual” Southern Regional Dairy Challenge.

--Alex White, Ph.D.

October 27, 2020