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OREGON — Some may have come to experience an udder dissection, but along the way the high school students at the annual Youth Leadership Derby presented by the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin also learned leadership, communication and other skills.

In addition to the interactive workshops on the UW-Madison campus, the annual PDPW Youth Leadership Derby included speakers, forums, roundtable discussions and a tour of Sassy Cow Creamery. The two-day event, which concluded about noon Sunday, was based at Oregon High School where a lock-in was held Saturday night for about 60 students and mentors.

One of the highlights was the udder dissection at the UW-Madison Dairy Cattle Center.

“They let us touch the udder inside to feel the veins and arteries and teats to feel what it’s like,” said Kelley Braun, a junior at Beaver Dam High School.

Braun, who didn’t grow up on a farm but is secretary of the school’s FFA chapter, attended the Youth Leadership Derby to gain more knowledge about the dairy and animal industries.

Caitlin Beyler, a junior at Oregon High School who is thinking of a career in the veterinary field, was fascinated by the ultrasound of a calf’s lungs that showed one was clean and one probably was affected by pneumonia.

The Professional Dairy Producers, which is a Juneau-based industry trade organization run by dairy farmers, has held the Youth Leadership Derby since 2003 around the state.

It is open to youth ages 15 to 18 and a farm background is not required. Each student pays $89, which includes meals and transportation during the event. The costs not covered by the fee are funded by the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation, which also is based in Juneau.

Shelly Mayer, executive director of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, said the weekend is designed to introduce the students to careers and to develop skills they need in the “real world,” such as leadership, communication and interpersonal relations.

Part of the idea is to meet other peers and that is aided by taking away cellphones.

“We feel the leadership skills are as important as the hands-on activities they are probably attracted to,” Mayer said.

The speakers at the event also talk about their career paths and offer advice. It was also a chance for the students to visit the UW-Madison campus. College students serve as mentors for the weekend.

Danielle Warmka, a junior who is studying dairy science at UW-Madison, is an intern at Professional Dairy Producers and one of the mentors who was available to answer students’ questions.

Sophia Lantz, a freshman at Big Foot High School who wants to major in animal science and quantitative genetics, said she thought the weekend would be a good experience.

Malachi Frank, a sophomore home-schooler from Waterloo who works at Crave Brothers Dairy Farm, enjoyed learning about how cheese is evaluated and tested at the Center for Dairy Research at UW Madison. Frank, who wants to go into law enforcement, thought the knowledge he gained over the weekend would help his work with the Portland Boosters 4-H Club.

Kelsey Maurer, who plans to study dairy science at UW- Madison, said the event unexpectedly strengthened her interest in the subject area.

“I never realized how interested I was in cows (until) I was sitting there and learning about it,” said Maurer, a senior at Kiel High School. “So I can’t wait ‘til next year … I’ll be learning about something I care about.”

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