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Audrey Souza (left) and Cole Hoyer (right) were co-chairs in charge of hosting the regional ADSA-SAD conference at SDSU. Melissa Schmitt/ Special to the Forum

SDSU hosts Midwest dairy conference

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Dairy students from across the region came together in South Dakota to sharpen their professional skills and knowledge.

South Dakota State University hosted the annual Midwest Regional American Dairy Science Association Student Affiliate Division Conference, which was held Feb. 3 to 5.

Cole Hoyer, a junior studying dairy production, and Audrey Souza, a senior studying pre-vet, ag leadership and dairy production, were the co-chairs responsible for planning the three-day event at SDSU.

“This year we brought a new focus to it with the dairy manufacturing side. Usually it’s been more focused on the production side,” Souza said. “It was a lot of fun, stress and planning.”

Hoyer is currently the dairy club president and Souza is the vice president. Their planning for the conference started more than a year ago, when SDSU was selected to host at the 2016 conference. Their jobs included being the point of contact for other universities, and overseeing registration and committees such as entertainment, security, fundraising and contests.

Full conference

The conference began with registration, the junior and senior quiz bowl, dairy products judging competition, a panel discussion and entertainment. The second day consisted of sessions for students, games and activities, career fair, tours of the SDSU dairy and Golden Dakota dairy farms, formal banquet and awards ceremony, a motivational speaker, a band and entertainment.

“We had six of our sponsor companies represented at the career fair, which we were very happy with,” Hoyer said.“This is one of the first times a career fair was held at the conference. Companies in the area are happy to see students from other states.”

The Sessions for students gave them skills and knowledge to use when entering the workforce, or simply at home on the farm or ranch. This year, offerings ranged from homestead dairy operations, immigrant labor laws and production.

“Normally, my favorite part of the conference is learning from the speakers,” Hoyer said. “This year, being host, I would have to say it was the banquet at the end. That is when we could finally see that we did it. It was great seeing everything wrap up and turn out after spending a year planning it.”

Each year at the conference, a new executive officer team for the Midwest Regional ADSA-SAD is selected. The 2017 to ’18 team consists of President Gabriella Sorg, University of Minnesota; First Vice President Cole Hoyer, South Dakota State University; Second Vice President Sabrina Portner, Iowa State University; Secretary and Treasurer Rachel Haynes, Purdue University; and Officer at Large Bryce Krull, University of Wisconsin River Falls.

About 382 students and advisers attended, pulling from 11 universities. In order to attend, there is a fee of $70 per student. Depending on the university, the club might cover charges.

While conference attendees are at the host university, they are exposed to the dairy programs, facilities and graduate programs the university offers. According to Souza, it gave them the opportunity to show others how the dairy industry is growing in the I-29 corridor, and that it’s more than just corn and soybeans. Afterward, she said she received texts from students interested in SDSU programs.

Vikram V. Mistry, SDSU professor, department head and dairy club adviser, thought the conference was a success.

“The program and sessions were very diverse, ranging from cheese making to labeling to technology,” Mistry said. “I think that’s what made it unique – it covered the whole spectrum from farm to product. Overall, it went well because of the students. They were very organized and conducted themselves well.”

Brandon Hawkins was one of the SDSU students who attended the ADSA SAD conference.

“At ADSA, we have the opportunity to learn about new industry standards, meet new people, see what other schools do and promote the dairy industry,” Hawkins said. “I think the networking aspect is important because the dairy industry is so small.”

Next year, the conference will be hosted by the University of Minnesota.