By Alisa Boswell
Educational programs are not keeping pace with the growing dairy business in the Southwest, according to Michael Tomaszewski, professor of dairy management at Texas A&M University.
Tomaszewski is one of the coordinators of the recently completed U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium held in conjunction with Clovis Community College.
“The biggest problem we’re faced with is although we have a growing dairy industry in the Southwest, universities throughout this area don’t have (dairy) programs any longer,” he said. “The industry needs individuals who have some ability to understand how dairies work, so what we decided to attempt to do was develop a consortium of universities and put together a six-week course in dairy management (and other dairy topics).”
The six-week program ended Friday with a reception in which 47 college students from 16 universities across the U.S. and New Zealand celebrated and reminisced what they would be leaving with from Clovis.
“They taught us real-life situations, that there’s going to be taxes and there’s going to be storms and disasters,” said Jason White, 22, a senior at Oklahoma State University. “It shows you a whole different perspective from a person who’s really done it instead of just learning it from a book.”
White is double majoring in animal science and agriculture education.
Tomaszewski said one of the unique things about the program is it brings in college professors from outside the region to help coordinate the program and teach during the classroom time.
During their eight-hour days, students spent four hours in a classroom and four hours on a dairy, learning hands-on what they just learned from a book.
“It’s really the whole gauntlet of things associated with dairy management,” Tomaszewski said of this year’s program, which is the seventh year for the consortium.
He said students focused on reproduction for one week in which they learned about the reproductive tract and function and the hormones of dairy cows. Students would perform ultrasounds on cows and draw their blood as well as study milking machines and organisms that can cause diseases in dairy cattle.
“Before I came, I really didn’t have any experience in the dairy industry and I didn’t know very much,” said Mary Lavender, 21, a senior from Texas A&M University and the only student who returned to the program from last year.
“I learned a lot in session one, which was more about the overall dairy industry and how it works,” Lavender said. “This summer, it’s more about managing dairies, so it’s been interesting to see the different perspectives on about the dairy and how you actually run a dairy.”
Lavender said being an animal science major, she has not taken many business classes, so it was nice for her to be able to learn the business side of dairy.
“This is one of the most cherished things that they get the most out of in their college careers is this six-week course here in Clovis,” Tomaszewski said of the students. “What happens with this program, invariably, is we will get some people out of here that start to realize the opportunities that are available within the dairy industry that they didn’t know about previously.”
Tomaszewski and Robert Hagevoort, another program coordinator and dairy extension specialist for New Mexico State University, said Curry County dairies participate in the program, allowing students to learn on their dairies.
“All of this would not be possible without the dairymen inviting us to their dairies. It’s very hands on and without that contribution from those dairymen, that would not be possible,” Hagevoort said. “We talk about a concept in the classroom and we go out to the dairy and see it, test it, try it, and that makes it real. That gives it meaning for the students.”