Meet Montana, an On-Farm Intern with a Passion for Herd Health

Montana, an on-farm intern, with a calf

From an early age, Montana Stump has cared deeply for animals. After growing up on her family’s hobby farm and spending her weekends at a friend’s dairy farm, she discovered her interest in animal health.

“It was fun [growing up on a farm]. My family had rabbits and sheep, and we also had goats, chickens, geese, and ducks,” Montana said. “On the weekends, I came to Hetrickdale Farms and spent time with the cows.”

What began as a childhood hobby eventually shaped her career goals. Now a senior at Delaware Valley University, Montana is studying animal science with the goal of becoming a large animal veterinarian for dairy cows.

Hetrickdale Farm, the large-scale dairy in Bernville, Pennsylvania that Montana visited as a child, is now providing her with professional, on-farm experience. She is one of seven individuals who are completing on-farm internships this summer through the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania, the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association.

“This internship has been a great opportunity for me. I’ve gotten to learn a lot about herd health, which is really what I want to do,” Montana said. “They have been really good teachers—they’ll show me how to do something, but then let me do it [myself]. It’s exciting and it has been nice to get experience on a larger farm.”

Throughout her internship, Montana has worked with Ian Hetrick, the herd manager, to treat fresh cows and provide them with nutrients and medication. She has also learned how to:

  • Assist with pregnancy checks
  • Give medications
  • Monitor herd health
  • Care for newborn calves, including giving them colostrum
  • Feed and sort calves

“Montana is doing very well—I’m honestly happy with the work she does. She listens very well and is quick to catch on to anything I show her,” Ian shared. “She’s doing a great job and is a great asset to our farm this summer.”

One of Montana’s biggest challenges during her internship has also led to one of the most rewarding moments: working with the calves and the automatic feeder system. With more than 1,000 cows, Hetrickdale Farm has approximately 25 calves born a week. After installing a new automatic feeder system, the farm was challenged with establishing a process for monitoring and treating the calves.

“I keep everything clean and bacteria-free, and make sure the calves are coming up to drink. It’s important to watch them and make sure they’re doing okay, and if we catch something, to treat it right away,” Montana explained. “So far we’ve been doing better. I’ve been trying to make sure they’re getting the milk and treating them as soon as possible.”  

An intern and a calf

For Montana, this project has only reinforced her childhood passion and nurturing spirit.

“I love the calf aspect. For newborn calves, you have to get them on the bottle and sometimes they’re stubborn. I’m patient and I’ve worked with calves at home, so when I started my internship, I knew I would love to get more experience with calves,” she added.

Her on-farm internship has also provided opportunities for research and analysis. Montana and her mentors are working to determine the average daily gain of calves on milk replacer versus whole milk. By taking frequent weight measurements, completing protein tests, and making sure the calves get everything they need, Montana hopes to discover relevant findings by the end of her internship.

In addition to gaining hands-on experience in the dairy industry and learning how to solve real-world problems, Montana has become even more passionate about using her experience to educate others.

“Growing up with dairy experience, I love the industry. I want to help people who aren’t agriculture-related, and people who misunderstand how the dairy industry is run, to become more informed,” she said. “I plan to take this internship experience back to my dairy society at Delaware Valley University and educate people there.”

Montana will graduate in the spring of 2020 and is currently applying to veterinarian school.

Learn more about the on-farm internship program.