A Dairy Future
Internship experience solidifies future career goals
Alicia Easterday has always loved animals. Growing up on her family’s dairy farm in Buhl, Easterday learned early on the importance of caring for animals.
“My grandpa taught me from a young age how to respect livestock, especially dairy cows. We take care of them because they take care of us,” she said. “I love animals and am very passionate about caring for them.”
Easterday’s love for animals led her to enroll at the University of Idaho to pursue a degree in animal and veterinary science: dairy option. An internship in summer 2021 reinforced that decision and her career goal to work in the dairy industry.
Easterday plans to become a dairy nutritionist where she can continue to care for the health of cows while helping producers maximize production and profits. After completing an internship with Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, she knows that her future career is indeed the perfect fit.
“I know for sure now that I want to work with dairy cows for the rest of my life,” she said.
Threemile Canyon Farms is the largest dairy operation in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States with close to 35,000 milking cows. As a dairy intern, Easterday spent most of her time in the maternity barn where she checked for cows struggling to give birth and pulling and feeding calves.
She was also able to compare the protocols and innovations taking place on a large-scale farm with her experiences growing up on a smaller farm.
“They do a lot of innovative, pioneering things in the dairy industry and I enjoyed seeing those types of things in practice,” she said. “I’ve heard of IVF in cows but seeing it at such a large scale, happening every day at their farm was kind of mind-blowing. I was able to gain opinions on things that I didn’t have much knowledge about before.”
She also completed a project looking at how the timing of colostrum intake in calves and their stress levels affected protein absorption. She worked with her supervisor, Brittany Casperson, to develop the project. Casperson is a dairy nutritionist at the farm and graduated from the U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2013 with a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition and lactation physiology.
“We discussed things that I would be interested in learning about and what the farm was wanting more information on,” Easterday said. “My career goal is to be a dairy nutritionist and nutrition starts with colostrum. So, I was interested in that aspect and if the speed and stress level of the colostrum and calving has anything to do with their absorption.”
The Right Fit
When it came time to choose a university of her higher education, U of I was at the top of Easterday’s list.
“For the cost and for the quality of education within ag science, I knew this is where I belonged,” she said. “After my fall semester of my freshman year, that definitely was solidified. I lived on the CALS floor and met a bunch of people and after meeting fellow students, I knew U of I is where I need to be for my education.”
Easterday was named a U of I Chobani Scholar prior to her first year, a scholarship program that provides assistance to Idaho students with a family history in the dairy industry with intentions of working in the industry after graduation.
“The Chobani scholarship is a huge assistance in my education,” she said. “I was planning on going to college regardless, but now I am more encouraged to do well in classes and I am not worried about working a full-time job or working nights or weekends to pay for school because of the assistance I have received from Chobani. Rather than worrying about money, I’m able to focus on my education and studying for my classes.”
The scholarship also allows Easterday to pursue opportunities like the dairy internship at Threemile Canyon Farms. She recommends that all U of I students consider an internship during their undergraduate career.
“I think that, if you are a student and you have a career in mind or even if you don’t, you should do an internship relating to your major,” she said. “For me it definitely solidified that yes, this is what I want to do.”
Easterday hopes to return to her family farm while also working as a dairy nutrition consultant after she graduates. Her internship experience solidified that those plans are the right path.
“I love cows so getting to work with cows every day for 10 hours a day was pretty fun. A lot of hard work but still enjoyable,” she said.
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos provided by Threemile Canyon Farms
Published in September 2021