The University of New Hampshire’s Dairy Club continued a strong tradition in 2023 by hosting its annual Youth Dairy Expo. An event started by the dairy club several years ago, it aims to educate New England’s youth about all parts of the dairy industry.

Over 70 youth from across New England gathered to dive headfirst into a packed day of dairy science. College students, faculty and staff come together at the UNH Durham campus to share their knowledge with hopes of inspiring the next generation of dairy industry leaders.

The day features a robust workshop lineup with something for everyone. Workshop topics included dairy foods evaluation, how to give oral reasons in a formal judging contest, fitting and showmanship and more.

Many of the youth who attend are 4-H and FFA members from Maine and New Hampshire, looking to sharpen their skills during the off-season from county fairs. The day’s activities prepare them well for their next summer in the show ring and springtime contests like quiz bowls and skill-a-thons.

“The number of hands-on experiences, engaging activities and access to real body parts were amazing,” noted one parent.

A favorite workshop from the day was dissecting an udder. A local butcher donated an udder from a recent order, and UNH Extension State Dairy Specialist Sarah Allen showed youth the different kinds of tissues that comprise the organ and the various systems that play into milk production. Experiences like this will last a lifetime and help to visualize concepts from textbooks and research.

Members of the UNH Dairy Club work hard to create workshops that will entice all age groups and provide practical, real-world knowledge. This is also a unique experience for many participants to interact with youth outside of their 4-H clubs and FFA chapters and meet potential college classmates down the road.

The workshops are presented by UNH professors and alumni, Cooperative Extension staff and UNH animal science students. The goal of the day is to engage youth in a variety of ways, from hands-on food tasting to matching parts of the animal. It opens the door to new career options with learning experiences that UNH students have benefited from and want to share with the next generation of students.

For example, some of the presenters had backgrounds in dairy nutrition; others were practicing veterinarians before taking on professor roles. Their unique perspectives not only made for well-rounded presentations but also a wealth of experience to share with the youth attendees.

Continuing the tradition of Youth Dairy Expo

Some of the current members of the UNH Dairy Club attended the expo when they were younger. Submitted photo

Planning for this event starts in late August when UNH students return to campus. Returning Dairy Club members set a date and begin event logistics while also in their recruiting phase for membership. For new club members, this is one of their first experiences with the organization. They all work hard to coordinate workshop presenters, initiate registration information and collect event sponsors. It creates a process to hand down this event to future UNH students.

There are always students who have executed the event on hand to teach first-timers how to run it. UNH partners, like the College of Life Science & Agriculture (COLSA) and the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition & Food Systems (ANFS), also assist with resources to run the event.

Youth Dairy Expo was created in 2015 after a few Dairy Club members returned from the American Dairy Science Association Student Affiliate Division’s annual conference. Students from other universities shared how they were engaging with people outside their campus in the areas of dairy science, and several brought up youth workshops. Some schools were hosting one-day events; others were hosting full summer camps.

The group from UNH was intrigued by these ideas and brought them home to establish the UNH Youth Dairy Expo. This tradition has become a priority for members to continue almost a decade later.

Several members of the UNH Dairy Club are 4-H and FFA alumni who are looking to give back to the youth organizations they came up in. Some can even recall attending the UNH Youth Dairy Expo as a youth participant. The students look forward to this chance to share their knowledge, and the youth attendees are thrilled to learn from their older peers.

For some event participants, this is also their first introduction to UNH and all the programs available for prospective animal science students. One participant commented, “Being able to be at the UNH campus, meet professors and students, think about potential classes and get a feel for the environment were also very important parts of the day.”

Perhaps some youth attendees will have a turn hosting the Youth Dairy Expo in a couple of years.

by Hannah Majewski