CASNR students honored at North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge


CASNR students win 2015 Dairy Challenge

University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture students earned first place at the 2015 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge. Shown are the winning team: animal science students Rebecca Davis and Stephanie Nash (front row, left and right) and Jeannette Peterson (back row center) with agricultural resource and economics student Billy Rochelle (back right) and team coach Dr. Gina Pighetti of the Department of Animal Science (back left). Photo courtesy UTIA. Download image.


A group of students at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture are among the best in the nation when it comes to evaluating dairy farms and animals. The students with UT’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) earned a first place award at the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge held recently in Liverpool, New York – receiving the top award in a competition against eight other universities.
The students are Rebecca Davis of Shelbyville, Stephanie Nash of Chapel Hill, and Jeanette “Ettie” Peterson of Chattanooga, all majoring in Animal Science, along with Agricultural Resource and Economics major Billy Rochelle of Centerville. Dr. Gina Pighetti, Associate Professor in Animal Science, coached the team.
“I’m proud of the time and work they put in,” says Pighetti. “This was a team effort, and they represented us well.”
Dairy Challenge is where students apply past academic learning to a real-world dairy. The UTIA team placed first against other teams after each evaluated the same farm. Each team inspected the operation and conducted interviews with the owners, and then made recommendations about nutrition, reproduction, milking and finances. Teams also answered questions from judges about their recommendations. In its 14-year history, Dairy Challenge has trained more than 4,700 students. A total of 32 universities were represented at this recent competition.
“We were placed in a real-world situation with limited time and expected to analyze a dairy operation,” says team member Billy Rochelle. “I have never been with a group who accomplished so much in so little time. Many industry participants were also there discussing internship and job opportunities with their respective companies.”
Pighetti says that’s an important part of what the students learned through this experience – the chance to work on a real farm and to lend their expertise. “Basically they are the valued consultants,” she says. “They learned how to critically evaluate and identify problems, and come up with the most logical way to fix things.”
Other team members agreed the experience will help them meet future career goals. Stephanie Nash’s family operates a Middle Tennessee dairy. “The dairy industry has always been a huge part of my life,” she says. “I was blessed to be part of this amazing program for four years, and I will keep striving to be the voice for families in the dairy industry,” she says.
“My experience at Dairy Challenge was phenomenal,” says Ettie Peterson. “I learned so much about the industry through seminars, educational farm tours and sponsors. My entire experience from 6:30 a.m. practice to completing our presentation was beyond rewarding.”
Other CASNR students took part in the Dairy Challenge Academy during this event. There was no competition here, but the students were able to also evaluate a working dairy farm alongside two dairy industry professionals. This group included Johnna Davis of Walland, Sydney Dean of Seymour, Jordan McGinnis of Washburn, Josh Snider of Lexington, N.C., and Dustie Strasser of Chapel Hill. Pighetti says this group of younger students may represent UTIA at future Dairy Challenges.
The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

Chuck Denney, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-382-8058 (mobile),


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