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Dairy science minor returns to NMSU after 20 years

It’s been over 20 years since New Mexico State University students have had the option of minoring in dairy science. But after 10 years of rebuilding the dairy program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, students may now choose the subject as their minor.


Woman in gray shirt, standing outdoors
Allison Martinez, a senior majoring in animal science and agricultural business at New Mexico State University, has chosen dairy science as her minor. After 20 years, the dairy science minor is available to students once again beginning in the fall of 2017. (NMSU photo by Kristie Garcia)
Two men talking to group of students in yellow safety vests
Robert Hagevoort, New Mexico State University Extension Dairy Specialist (left) and Jim Abacherli of South Slope Dairy in Clovis, New Mexico, talk to students at the 2016 U.S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium. (Photo by Andrés Leighton)

Robert Hagevoort, associate professor and Extension dairy specialist at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center at Clovis in Eastern New Mexico, has been instrumental in re-establishing the dairy program.

“Over 20 years ago, it was difficult for the campus dairy to be profitable, due to economic reasons,” Hagevoort said. “NMSU dairy manager at the time, Lewis Topliff, did an excellent job of managing the cows, but it’s especially difficult maintaining a dairy when it’s solely for educational purposes, not commercial.”

Hagevoort joined NMSU in 2005 after serving as a consultant to the California dairy industry for 15 years. The College of ACES dean at the time – Lowell Catlett – gave Hagevoort the task of rebuilding the NMSU dairy program without a dairy on campus.

By 2008, Hagevoort, Texas A&M University’s Michael Tomaszewski and University of Arizona’s Bob Collier had formed the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium, initially named the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium.

The consortium offers a six-week class for college students at Clovis Community College during the summer. The three-credit course is listed at NMSU as Animal Science 468 – Advanced Dairy Herd Management. The class began with 18 students in its first year in 2008, while over 50 students from 19 universities attended the 10th annual class this summer. Over 400 students from 48 universities around the world have completed the class since its inception.

During the six-week course, students live in Clovis and participate in classroom instruction and hands-on lessons at various dairies in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas.

Hagevoort said the program is extremely impactful.

“A recent survey of former students now in careers shows some very exciting results,” he said. “Four out of five former students are now working in agriculture, two out of three students are employed in the dairy industry, and one out of three is currently actively managing or working on a dairy operation.”

Allison Martinez, an NMSU senior majoring in animal science and agricultural business, completed the most recent course in Clovis.

“This program was extremely beneficial to me because I was able to get out in the field and experience real-life work that I couldn’t have received in a classroom alone,” Martinez said.

Martinez is one of the first students to select the reinstated dairy science minor.

“I hope the dairy science minor will help me broaden my options for my future career,” she said. “By taking on this minor, hopefully I’ll end up with a career in the dairy industry.”

In addition to the consortium and the course in Clovis, animal science professors at NMSU have incorporated dairy science into their curriculum. Whether it’s a ruminant nutrition course or cattle management course, they all include a dairy component.

While the 10-year dairy program rebuilding effort by Hagevoort and others at NMSU has been nothing short of full-force, Hagevoort is quick to give credit to dairy producers.

“Producers are the real heroes, and they should get all the credit for this,” Hagevoort said. “They recognize the importance of the industry and hands-on learning on farms. They share stories with the students about their successes and failures, and they really allow us to use their dairies as classrooms.”

The Southwest – including Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – is the third-largest milk production area in the nation behind California and Wisconsin.

Jerry Hawkes, department head for Extension animal sciences and natural resources at NMSU, said the new minor reflects the importance of dairy science in New Mexico.

“We believe there is a need for this at NMSU, as dairy plays such an important role in our state,” Hawkes said. “The dairy program in New Mexico is a leader both nationally and internationally.”

Hawkes, who is also the interim associate dean and director of academic programs in the College of ACES, said the minor will better prepare NMSU students for a future in the dairy industry.

“We want to provide our students with the opportunity to have an insight into dairy science, including the economics involved,” he said.

Hawkes will teach the dairy economics course.

The minor is part of the NMSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences, for which Shanna Ivey serves as interim department head and professor. Ivey said the minor will complement several fields of study.

“The new minor will lend itself well to students studying ag biology or ag and Extension education who want to pursue the dairy-intense side of things,” she said. “It will really strengthen our academic program, and students will have the dairy science minor verbiage on their transcripts.

“Also, the minor has two required ag economics classes, so it’s a nice cooperation between our department and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business. It not only provides the science of dairy production, but it also gives the business side of it, too, which I think is important.”

College of ACES Dean Rolando Flores said it’s vital that NMSU offers this minor.

“Years ago it was attractive to come to NMSU from other states for this purpose, so it was critical that we reinstated the dairy science minor,” Flores said. “I’m delighted that we have the faculty in animal and range sciences to support this minor. It will create an opportunity for students from New Mexico and other areas, and it will help create job opportunities.”

Students who select dairy science as their minor are required to complete 18 credit hours of courses ranging from dairy production to dairy economics. For more information about the dairy science minor, visit the NMSU Department of Animal and Ranges Sciences website at http://aces.nmsu.edu/academics/anrs/.