Cal Poly Team Excels in North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge


May 3, 2018

Contact: AnnMarie Cornejo


SAN LUIS OBISPO -- The Cal Poly Dairy Challenge Team earned first place at the 17th annual North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge,  held April 12-14 in Visalia, California. The win marks the fourth time in five years that Cal Poly has won the Dairy Challenge Platinum Award.

The students assessed all aspects of a working dairy farm and developed a farm analysis that included a list of recommendations related to facilities, nutrition, financials, reproduction and animal health. The Cal Poly team ranked first in its division among eight teams. In all, 235 students from 28 states representing the top animal science and dairy programs in the U.S. and Canada competed at the event. 

The Cal Poly team members on the winning team were:Anthony Echeverria of Bakersfield, California, Amber LaSalle of San Luis Obispo, Matt Ruby of Visalia, California, and Tony Lopes of Los Banos, California.The team was coached by Assistant Professor David Vagnoni, dairy science Lecturer Rich Silacci, and Assistant Professor Julie Huzzey. Students Hannah Neer of San Luis Obispo, Elisabeth Regusci of Modesto, California and Tate Nelson of Visalia, California also competed at the event.  

“We are incredibly proud of our team,” said Silacci. “These talented and ambitious dairy science students received multiple complements from industry experts with regard to their comprehensive knowledge about the dairy industry and their thoughtful assessments and bold recommendations.”

Dairy Challenge is a unique, real-world experience where dairy students work as a team and apply their college coursework to evaluate and provide solutions for an operating dairy farm. In Visalia, two programs ran concurrently – the 17th annual Dairy Challenge contest and the sixth annual Dairy Challenge Academy. The events were coordinated by the North American Dairy Challenge Board of Directors and the Western planning committee.

This year’s contest included 38 universities, whose four-person teams competed for awards based on their quality of teams’ farm analysis and appropriate solutions. Their farm presentations were evaluated by a panel of five judges, including dairy producers, veterinarians, finance specialists and seasoned agribusiness personnel.

About the North American Dairy Challenge:

The North American Dairy Challenge is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. Over its 17-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare more than 6,400 students for careers as farm owners and managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals. The next national event will be hosted in Tifton, Georgia, March 28-30, 2019. Four regional events are held in late fall and winter; details are at

About Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, comprehensive polytechnic university. The university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is comprised of expert faculty members who take pride in their ability to transform academically motivated students into innovative professionals ready to solve the complex challenges associated with feeding the world in sustainable ways. Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories including ranchland, orchards, vineyards and forests, all of which provide the basis for Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing methodology. 

Photo Cutline: 2018 Cal Poly Dairy Challenge Platinum award winning team. L to R: Assistant Professor David Vagnoni (coach), Anthony Echeverria, Amber LaSalle, Matt Ruby, and Tony Lopes.

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