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.

NAIDC Business Plan

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.

Elections of members of the Board of Directors are held in June. Interested candidates should submit a brief candidate biography via mail or e-mail to a Board member by May 1. Candidates should review and be capable of meeting Board Requirements and be nominated by a member of the Board of Directors. The Board member will then submit the bio to the Nominating Committee in advance of elections. Candidates will be contacted in mid-June with election results.

Board Resources

2023-2024 Dairy Challenge Board

Cathy Myers Headshot
Cathy Myers



Alex White Headshot
Alex White

Vice Chair

Virginia Tech

Jeffrey Elliott Headshot
Jeffrey Elliott

Associate Vice Chair


Gail Carpenter Headshot
Gail Carpenter

Promotions & Engagement Chair

Iowa State University

Dave Thorbahn Headshot
Dave Thorbahn

Finance Chair

Select Sires

Ted Halbach Headshot
Ted Halbach

Program Committee Chair

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Trevor DeVries Headshot
Trevor DeVries

University of Guelph

Jordan Fisher Headshot
Jordan Fisher

Mapleview Dairy

Matt Groen Headshot
Matt Groen


John J. Lehr Headshot
John J. Lehr

Farm Credit East

Megan Mouw Headshot
Megan Mouw

Elanco Animal Health

Darby Pedrozo Headshot
Darby Pedrozo

Land O’Lakes Inc.

Marlynn Schaap Headshot
Marilyn Schaap

Deer Creek Feeding, LLC

Erin Spangler Headshot
Erin Spangler

Riverview, LLP

Craig Walter Headshot
Craig Walter

Valley Ag

Management Staff

Molly J. Kelley Headshot
Molly J. Kelley

Executive Director



Laura Herschleb Headshot
Laura Herschleb

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

View Constitution and ByLaws

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:

  • 2023
    • Wanda Emerich
    • Coleen Jones
    • Amy te Plate-Church
    • Raechel Sattazahn
    • Rob Sheffer
    • Dr. John Walton
  • 2022
    • No new recipients. Formally recognized 2020 recipients after 2020 event was cancelled.
  • 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