By Liliana Castillo: Freedom New Mexico
The students look intently as professor Mike Hutjens sifts through the corn silage cupped in his hands, pointing out crucial components of the dairy feed, such as alfalfa and cotton seed.
A University of Illinois professor, Hutjens talks about the importance each ingredient plays in dairy herd nutrition during a tour of Southern Draw Dairy, north of Clovis. The tour is part of a joint dairy program being hosted by Clovis Community College.
During the six-week program, 18 college students from six universities will study herd evaluation, financial evaluation, management tactics, nutrition and facility management.
The first-year program features experts and professors from specific areas of the dairy industry. Students from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Abilene Christian, New Mexico State, University of Arizona and Washington State universities came to the area because of the large number of dairies in the area, offering a plethora of hands-on experience.
Michael Tomaszewski, a dairy management professor at Texas A&M, said the hands-on learning the students receive during the class is invaluable.
“There is no university in the whole Southwest with a significant dairy program,” he said. “So we decided to pool our resources and bring the students, professors and experts together.
“The students are being exposed to very advanced experience. They are nationally known experts in the field, and the students will be able to work with them in this class,” he said.
Tomaszewski said Texas A&M’s dairy herd was sold four years ago.
“It’s difficult trying to teach dairy management without cows,” Tomaszewski said.
The students can receive course credit through their university, instead of having to transfer the credits.
Kimmi Devaney, 20, an animal sciences major at Washington State University, said she is getting a lot out of the class.
“It’s icing on the cake,” said Devaney, who plans to go into dairy management after college. “The class is adding facts which are more specific to dairies. It’s great.”
As Devaney watched a long row of cows feed, she marveled at the size of the dairies in the area.
“These dairies are huge compared to back home,” the Washington native said. “We’re learning everything.”
Clinton Roof, a 22-year-old animal science and pre-vet student at New Mexico State University, plans to go into large animal medicine after attending veterinary school.
“I’ve been told, as a vet in New Mexico, a huge part of that is dairymen asking ‘What can I do different?’” Roof said. “So I think it’s important to understand the industry.”
Nick Dejong, a Texas A&M student from Dublin, Texas, said the hands-on work is the most beneficial.
“We go into details in class, and then we get to see what it should be,” Dejong said. “It’s good to see the different procedures that all these dairymen have.”
Dejong’s family has operated dairies since 1979, and he plans to carry on the tradition.
“I’m excited. This is definitely what I want to do,” he said. “And going to stuff like this is how I’m going to be successful.”