The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Elizabeth Larsen

Students gather in Clovis for yearly dairy consortium


Last updated 7/20/2021 at 4:17pm

Courtesy photo

About three dozen college students from throughout the U.S. participated in the Dairy Education and Training Consortium.

CLOVIS - From May 17 thru June 25, the King's Inn was home to 35 college students from all over the country who gathered in Clovis to participate in the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium.

The program - the Dairy Consortium for short - has run since 2008, thought last year's program was canceled due to COVID-19.

In a normal year, the Dairy Consortium would host 60 students and run two different sessions, but because of COVID restrictions still in effect, the program had to cut back in order to run again this year. That's all according to Robert Hagevoort, extension dairy specialist with New Mexico State University and co-founder of the program.

For 13 years the Dairy Consortium has been a source of real world, hands-on learning for the rising generation of dairy farmers. When local agricultural schools could no longer feasibly run their own dairies, Hagevoort, among others, responded by organizing the summer program based in Clovis - the heart of dairy country.

"A lot of times within our ... universities we teach a lot of things in the classroom that we really have no idea about what it would be, how it really works in the real world," Hagevoort said. "So what we want to do is really get out and get our boots dirty so to speak."

There's plenty of dirt, feed and manure to go around as the students visit local dairies and learn the ins and outs of the trade from the local dairy farmers and industry experts. They learn a wide array of topics, from nutrition to robotics and automation, according to Hagevoort.

"They get a little bit of everything," said Joe Pinedo, a local cow reproduction expert and owner of Pinedo AI Services LLC and Embryo Technologies LLC. "On a large scale (the students) get to see a lot of animals," Pinedo said. But student exposure to the industry isn't limited to the farms. Students are taken to various processing plants in the area and learn about each aspect of the industry.

While the students reap the rewards of hands-on learning, the industry also benefits from the Dairy Consortium. "We've never had a dairy say no," said Hagevoort, "because the industry is always looking at ways to generate industry interest in the next generation."

Attracting the rising generation is essential to the dairy industry's growth, especially as farmers are still "dealing and reeling with the aftermath" of COVID's interruption to the supply chain, according to Hagevoort.

Throughout the program's 14 years in existence, nearly 600 students have participated from 15 different universities from all across the country. Hagevoort said two of three students from the program end up working somewhere in the dairy industry - many leave the Dairy Consortium with internships or even jobs in hand.


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