Animal Science Sophomore Gains a Broader Perspective and Dairy Genetics Experience

For Caroline Arrowsmith, the dairy industry has been her passion since she was young. She was born and raised on Hillacres Jerseys in Peach Bottom, PA and has been involved in various dairy organizations  throughout her life. Caroline, a sophomore at The Pennsylvania State University, spent this summer interning at Pine Tree Dairy in Marshallville, Ohio. She is one of seven college students who are 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 wanted to do this internship early on [in my college career] to get as much experience as I can. I know that most corporate internships don’t hire freshman, so this was a chance to get more experience at a young age,” she said. “I wanted to get a management perspective to help me in any future positions, and also get experience on a large dairy farm and gain more knowledge in genetics.”

Caroline certainly got her wish: Pine Tree Dairy has five different facilities and milks over 1,000 cows on their operation. The main dairy where Caroline spends most of her time milks approximately 700 cows while the other four milk about 200 cows. The other smaller farms each have their very own niche, as Caroline describes it: “One is an organic farm, one is all A2A2 cows, one is cows on pasture, and the other is a jersey farm.”

With Caroline’s 4-H and showring background, it’s not surprising that genetics was the focus of her summer.

“I wanted to learn about making different matings, as well as evaluating genomic profiles to make buying and IVF decisions, she added.

Throughout the internship, Caroline has gained experience with treating fresh cows and calf care. Her day-to-day tasks include milking the fresh and sick pens every morning and evaluating them to make treatment decisions. She also helps feed calves and assists with vaccinations. Along with these tasks, Caroline has also helped in the culling and genetic decisions they make on the operation. For Caroline, the management aspect was something she was very interested in— with both the herd and the business. 

“Coming from a smaller farm background, you definitely have to look at a larger farm as more of a business operation. I’ve learned how to make hard decisions both in business, such as culling, and in the herd, such as different treatment options,” she shared. “I am now able to make better treating decisions and have a larger skillset that I could use to become a fresh cow manager, which is highly desirable in the industry.”

Caroline has also learned practical, on-farm skills, such as blocking tails to put in embryos, the PC-Dart system, and much more. She says she has also been able to gain more business management experience. The operation started milking at a new facility, so she has witnessed them working through the logistics of this, such as hiring new employees and purchasing cows to fill the facility.

As part of the internship program, Caroline was required to complete a research project. Her project involved their genetics program and deciding if the genetics company they are currently with is the right fit for them.

“Because they do so much IVF work, a lot of other companies want to work with them. We did two trials with other companies and compared the oocyte and embryo counts with these companies and then compared them to the numbers from who they currently work with,” she said. “Soon, we will be able to compare pregnancy rates and then compare the prices between the companies to determine the best option for their farm.”

After graduation, Caroline isn’t sure exactly what her future entails, but the internship certainly helped her gain a broader perspective.

“I loved the calf management experience. I would love to be a calf or a young stock manager in the future,” she shared.

One of her favorite parts of the internship experience, however, did not actually take place on the farm.

“There was a calf that I completely fell in love with. She was smaller than the rest and they were going to send her to another farm, so I asked if I would be able to keep her,” Caroline said. “I was visiting home that weekend, so I loaded her up in my car and made the six-hour drive with her in the back. I put down a tarp and a bunch of towels. She still made a mess, but it was such a fun experience and a great way to remember my internship experience at Pine Tree Dairy for years to come.”

Caroline was very grateful for the new connections she made across the dairy industry and the networking opportunities she had with the other interns in the program.  

“It was really beneficial to do an internship on-farm through the program. They paired me with a farm I would have never had the opportunity to work for otherwise and you get a great support system with the other interns,” 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.