DAYTON – A former 4-H Dairy Princess will return to her home and family in a few weeks after earning a bachelor’s degree in dairy science and serving a 600-hour internship at one of the most prestigious dairy farms in the country.
Amanda Elsholz completed her final hours on the Mason Dixon Farms in Gettysburg, Pa. She said the experience was eye-opening and taught her many new skills. She will return to SUNY Cobleskill to do a presentation on her experiences and turn in her final paper.
Elsholz said she always enjoys her experience with animals and credits her father, Steve, with getting her involved.
“My dad used to work on dairy farms, and he really encouraged me to try 4-H,” she said.
Initially, Elsholz got involved with beef cattle, but she eventually switched over to the dairy program.
“Once I started to learn about dairy cows, that was it,” she said.
Elsholz, the 2008 Cattaraugus County Dairy Princess, vowed to help young 4-Hers learn about all the benefits of farming and agricultural business.
She said she was impressed with the recycling and sustainability efforts at Mason Dixon Farms, where she had her internship.
She lived with the Doyle Waybright family, which is part of the eighth generation running the family-owned farm. She said they carry their recycling efforts into their home life, where they use waste for compost and carefully sort plastics and other reusable items.
“They are proud to say they run the farm on ‘cow power’ since 1979,” she said.
The farm uses manure as a source of methane gas, which is converted to energy to run the farm. There are about 53 employees at the farm and about 2,600 cows.
Elsholz said she was fortunate to get an internship, as only two are offered each semester.
On the farm, a typical day for Elsholz started at 6:30 a.m. and lasted until about 5 p.m. She learned to identify cows by their tags, collars and transponder devices, and she helped push the cows into the robotic milking devices.
Elsholz also learned to look for signs that cows might be getting ill and to separate them for further evaluation by the staff.
She said one of the most valuable lessons she learned was to be aware and listen all the time.
“There are lots of situations where you could get hurt, so you learn to listen to the sounds of machinery, watch out for the movement of cows and keep aware at all times,” she said. “It is nothing like I thought it would be when I was in 4-H.”
Elsholz has hopes of landing a job in the dairy industry back in Western New York. She said she thinks her new skills and experiences will help her be watchful and anticipate issues. She said she also gained experience with modern tracking technology that helped her to be aware of potential issues with the animals.