As part of Maine Dairy Month, Real Maine will be showcasing members of our state’s dairy community. Today, we spotlight some students at the University of Maine.
Each semester, 22-25 University of Maine animal science students gain experience working with dairy animals on a farm in the university’s student-run program called UMADCOWS (University of Maine Applied Dairy Cooperative of Organized Working Students). The university says the program helps students acquire an applied knowledge of dairy management that can only be gained by this experience.
UMADCOWS, which began 25 years ago, offers hands-on experience milking, feeding, delivering calves, and caring for UMaine’s dairy herd. Students also learn lessons in decision making, teamwork, time management, and communication.
“It’s fun to watch new students start the semester being very tentative around the cows, but, over time, develop the skills so that by the end, they act like they have been working with cows all their lives,” Dr. David Marcinkowski, the advisor for the program, said. “Not all the students in the program are going to work in the dairy industry, but they will all have a better appreciation of what it takes to put milk on the table.”
A way for UMaine animal science students to demonstrate their knowledge about modern dairy farming is to participate in the annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge. This year’s challenge was held recently.
The dairy challenge is an industry-led program designed to help the next generation of agriculturists to understand modern dairy farming.
In the challenge, teams of university students evaluate a dairy, then present their findings to a panel of judges. The judges, who represent various aspects of the dairy industry, also evaluate the farm, and provide guidance and feedback to the students. The student presentations are evaluated on their content, delivery, and agreement with the judge’s findings. These evaluations are shared with the dairy owner for their consideration.
Students have the opportunity to network with sponsors, farm owners, and industry professionals as part of the challenge.
Dr. Marcinkowski, who coaches the team, said, “The students never know what to expect on these farms, so the competition is a test of everything they have learned throughout their college career.”