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Up to the (dairy) challenge

Published: 16 April 2024

When it comes to valuable outside-the-classroom learning experiences, a competition attended by a team of students from McGill’s Macdonald Campus ticked all the boxes. 

Four students in the Farm Management and Technology (FMT) program travelled to California in early April for the 2024 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge.

Their task? Analyze a well-managed dairy farm – looking at everything from milk production and cow comfort to environmental and financial considerations – and come up with recommendations to enhance operations.

FMT students Connor Velthuis and Beatrice Neveu, who both grew up on dairy farms and plan to continue the tradition, found it an interesting and instructive experience.

“I go home, I look at my farm and you say ‘well, this is how we do things, so it must be good,” says Velthuis, who hails from just outside Ottawa. “But whenever you’re forced to go somewhere else, and you actually have to think about what they’re doing and criticize that, it helps you become a better farm manager for sure.”

“It was amazing to hear the input that everybody else had, and it just gets your brain going,” Neveu adds.

Students can only compete once at the national Dairy Challenge and many of their expenses are covered by the competition. For their travel costs, the Mac Campus team turned to sponsors, and to crowdfunding on McGill24, the University’s annual day of giving, on March 13. Their fundraising effort was among more than 100 crowdfunding projects led by students across the University. Donors contributed more than $3,600 for the Dairy Challenge trip, a portion of which will be topped up by matching funds from generous donors as the donations were made on McGill24.

“We’re very grateful for our sponsors and everybody that helped us get there,” says Neveu. “It’s really what made the experience possible.”

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