Training pipeline quenches industry’s thirst for college grads
The business of producing milk shows no signs of slowing down, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant is ensuring the pipeline of future industry professionals doesn’t slow to a trickle.In August 2014, farmers in 23 states produced more than 16.2 billion pounds of milk, up 2.6 percent from 2013. During that same period, the number of cows increased 8.58 million head, up 60,000.
Despite that growth in the industry, the number of dairy-related programs at colleges and universities is going down. To address that concern, Dr. Roger Hagevoort and his team at New Mexico State University have come up with a solution to ensure a prosperous future.
Hagevoort, an extension dairy specialist, launched the Dairy Education and Training Consortium (USDETC) with a $326,000 grant provided by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA). The program features a 12-week learning excursion for college juniors and seniors with a background in dairy science, animal science, and other ag-related concentrations. Participants receive hands-on training from dairy experts on feeding, milking, breeding, and managing large cow herds on a farm. What began in 2008 as a 6-week curriculum with only a few students has grown in the last few years to 12 weeks and 50 students.
“USDETC instills the fundamentals of the dairy industry to the next generation of farmers,” Hagevoort said. “Producers have increasingly expressed the need for better, more specialized, and targeted education and training programs for both current and new employees, as well as students enrolled in animal and dairy science programs at the land-grant universities.”
USDETC’s popularity is attracting students throughout the United States and Canada, all with the common goal of learning and keeping the business of dairy a prosperous multifunction enterprise. “The program is a real success and has generated an appetite within the industry to replicate the program in different geographical areas and across other disciplines in agriculture,” Hagevoort said.