What is Dairy Challenge?

Dairy Challenge is focused on developing tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhancing the progress of the dairy industry through education, communication and networking among its stakeholders.

Dairy Challenge Competitions

The flagship Dairy Challenge programs include competitions held in four regions across the United States, in addition to the national competition. For nearly two decades, Dairy Challenge has connected dairy science students and universities with producers and industry professionals in a forum that’s educational and fun.

At Dairy Challenge, students work as a team to apply theory and learning to a real-world dairy.

and Tour

Students tour a dairy operation and review production, herd management and financial records to assess what the dairy does well and where they could improve.

Collaborate on

Students work together to develop recommendations for the farm to maximize herd profit through nutrition, production, milking procedures, animal health, facilities, cow comfort, farm strategy and more.


Student teams present recommendations to a panel of judges including dairy producers, veterinarians, nutrition and financial consultants.

Dairy Challenge Academy

Dairy Challenge Academy was an expansion to the program in 2013 to reach additional students in a hands-on learning environment with identified team advisors. The Academy runs in conjunction with the Dairy Challenge national contest and is open to students not participating in the Dairy Challenge competition but interested in learning more about assessing dairy operations and networking with other students and industry professionals.

Dairy Challenge Vet

Dairy Challenge Vet officially began in 2019 as a program of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge. This program is held annually and hosted by a veterinary school in North America. Each July, any veterinary colleges that are interested in hosting the Dairy Challenge Vet competition must submit a proposal to Dairy Challenge. If more than one proposal is submitted, the Dairy Challenge Board will select the group to host the event.

Board & Leadership

Dairy Challenge is led by a 15-member volunteer board of directors comprised of dedicated industry professionals and university personnel.

Board Resources

2021-2022 Dairy Challenge Board

Dave Whitlock


Cooperative Milk Producers Association

Kristi Fiedler

Vice Chair

Genex Cooperative

Cathy Myers

Associate Vice Chair


Ted Halbach

Program Committee Chair

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Megan Mouw

Alumni Chair

Elanco Animal Health

Alex White

Finance Chair

Virginia Tech

Ashley Mohn

Publicity Chair

AgChoice Farm Credit

Gail Carpenter

Iowa State University

Trevor DeVries

University of Guelph

Jeffrey Elliott


Erich Estes

Cargill Animal Health

Cornell Kasbergen

Rancho Teresita Dairy

John J. Lehr

Farm Credit East

Renee Smith

Virtus Nutrition

Craig Walter

Valley Ag

Management Staff

Molly J. Kelley

Executive Director



Scott Bentley

WDE Management

WDE Management, Inc.

Dairy Challenge History

Dairy Challenge was established in 2002 as a management contest to incorporate all phases of a specific dairy business. The first contest was held in April of 2002 at Michigan State University, East Lansing. The contest had 14 participating schools.

In 2003, the first regional contest was added in the NortheastUnited States, and three other regional contests have been added since then in the Midwest, West and South. Regional events are structured similar to the national contest, although emphasis is more on education than competition. Students are placed on aggregate teams with students from other universities with varying skills and backgrounds.

Today, Dairy Challenge strives to incorporate a higher-learning atmosphere with practical application to help prepare students for careers in the dairy industry. Thousands of students have enhanced their dairy management, communication and business skills through Dairy Challenge, in turn generating highly qualified graduates to lead and further improve the dairy industry.

View Complete Contest History

Founders Awards

Many have contributed to the countless hours establishing and growing Dairy Challenge to what it is today. The Dairy Challenge Founders Award was started in 2016 to recognize those with extraordinary, consistent contributions and/or distinguished service to Dairy Challenge.

Past recipients:

  • 2021
    • Virtual Event, No Nominations
  • 2020
    • Hap Allen
    • David Hill
    • Todd Kranz
    • Miriam Weber Nielsen
    • Jim Sipiorski
    • Mike Westphal
  • 2019
    • Linda Hodorff *
  • 2018
    • Matt Budine
    • Larry Muller
    • David Winston
    • Stan Henderson
  • 2017
    • Don Rogers
    • Linda Hodorff
    • David Selner
    • David Thorbahn
  • 2016
    • Kas Ingawa
    • Barry Putnam
    • Mike Van Amburgh

* nominated in 2017, honored in 2019