College Senior Gains Experience with Animal Care During On-Farm Internship

Originally from Berks County, Pennsylvania, Paige Miller was introduced to the world of dairy farming through her mentor, a local dairy farmer. After working at his farm and gaining experience in the industry, he encouraged her to pursue a career in dairy. Paige decided to study animal science, with the business option, at Penn State University.

As she approached her senior year, Paige made the decision to apply for a summer internship that would give her more on-farm experience. She was accepted into the program and is one of seven college students completing on-farm internships through the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation of Pennsylvania, the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association.

“I was hoping to gain more experience as to how a different farm operates because obviously every place is different,” Paige said. “My main experiences have been at farms in Berks County, so I wanted to see more.”

Paige was paired with Kurtland Farms, a dairy farm in Chester County that uses robotic milking technology and focuses on sustainability. Some of her daily responsibilities include feeding the calves, robotic milking, loading feed, and performing night checks.  

“I like that I have so much time to spend with the calves and can keep an eye on them. We check on them three to four times a day, so we can stay on top of monitoring their health,” Paige said.

With the opportunity to complete a research project during the internship, Paige took her interest in calf care and decided to study how she could reduce the number of scours cases—inflammation of the intestinal tract— in newborn calves. Throughout the summer, Paige focused on frequently cleaning the calves’ hutches, applying clean, dry bedding, raising the hutches slightly to increase airflow, and changing the type of soap they used to wash buckets.

“I was looking at my numbers the other day, and so far, I’ve cut the number of scours cases in half,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how much a clean hutch and fresh bedding actually helped.”

In addition to her research project, the on-farm internship helped expose Paige to new management practices and new types of technology, including robotic milking. With a passion for animal care and a strong network of mentors in her corner, Paige hopes to pursue a career in dairy after graduation.

“Dairy is just a great, caring industry. Everyone is there for each other and helps out if you need something. If you have a question, you can ask another farmer and they’ll share what they do,” she added.

The Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation, the Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association provide $3,000 grants to support the on-farm internship program each summer. Learn more.