Dairy husbandry and environmental stewardship

Caelah Doerr, '15; Samantha Mamarow, '15

May 19, 2014

For us, education has been and will continue to be a stepping-stone from our past to where we’d like to go in our future. After high school, we decided that instead of going on into the work force we would continue with our education. We knew we wanted to continue on the agricultural path that our parents had set before us, though they never pressured us to stay in the world we had come from. Once we had decided on that, the only school for us was Michigan State University—what better school in Michigan for agriculture than that? After today, we have now discovered that the people in Holland are the same way: they continue with what their parents started out with, attend a higher education, and look to the future.

Our day started off at CAH Dronten, an applied science university in the Netherlands. Most of the students come from family farms, and some plan to go back to their farm to take over from their parents. While here, the teachers focus not only on the current practices in their industries, but also towards the future.  That way, when students have completed their school, they can start with the current technology. For us, this learning style is a little different. We learn what is happening right now, and it’s expected that once we enter the workforce, we’ll learn the newer technology with on-the-job training. But what if we did learn like the Dutch? What if we focused instead on the future practices and techniques and what we think will happen? Would we do better in our industries? We think we would, but the education back home is different, therefore we’ll continue with our education, but learn from the people we’ve met in the Netherlands.

''The university has a student-managed and student-run farm — in contrast to our student-run, but faculty-managed farms.  Touring the Dronten University farms was an interesting experience. We saw how they managed their dairy cows and their plans for a new barn. However, the new barn will not simply expand on the old barn, but will have a whole different management type so the students can learn how different systems are run. We think it is a completely amazing idea: getting to learn multiple systems in one place.  Again, we could learn so much about the different management systems if we applied the same methods in the U.S. So we have definitely been taught some lessons by visiting a university in a different country. What a crazy thing!

Our Friday here in Holland was jam-packed with education. Learning comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but who knew that while on our study abroad our education today would come in a classroom, as well as a farm with traits very similar, but also vastly different, than our own? We definitely didn’t, but these remarkable experiences are shaping to be stepping stones in our education that will lead us to our future.

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