Internship Profile: Derek Donnelly

Name: Derek Donnelly

Hometown: Hager City, Wisconsin

Year: Senior

Major other than Dairy Science: Agricultural and Applied Economics and Dairy Science

Internship Employer: Winfield Solutions, a Division of Land O Lakes, Inc

Learning objective: My role was as a Forage Management Intern covering Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. I had three main projects this summer. The first was gathering second year data for a study correlating the height of alfalfa to yield on a dry matter basis per acre. This project was in collaboration with Dr. Dan Undersander of the Agronomy Department here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My second project was working with eight Wisconsin dairies looking at how much relative feed value was lost during each step of the alfalfa harvesting process. Evaluation of relative forage quality (RFQ) and yield of GreenTreat Rocket Sudan grass was part of my third project.   I also worked with growers and sellers helping to gather Aphanomyces samples to be tested, as well as helping out with the HarvXtra reduced lignin alfalfa project.

Description of internship: I have outlined my projects above, which were my main priority. Also during my time with Winfield, I helped at Forage Genetics International once a week, participated in Answer Plots across Wisconsin and Iowa, and much more. I also was able to attend a Forage day at a Forage Genetics location near Ames, Iowa. A normal day varied depending on the time of the month and when growers were preparing to harvest alfalfa, as well as if there were any events going on that week.

Favorite part of the internship: I honestly loved every aspect of my internship, from my many travels across Wisconsin and Minnesota, to my various projects, and much more. I had the privilege of visiting Forage Genetics International once a week, which goes above and beyond on their development of alfalfa varieties. I would have to say that my favorite part of my internship would have to be talking with growers. From the various questions that were asked on each of my visits to the farms for my height and yield study and forage quality study, to returning to discuss my results with them, I had many interactions. There were many great discussions, and I would look into the subjects we talked about and find answers for those questions that I did not know and would get back to them! This internship was a great learning experience overall.

Most interesting thing you’ve learned: One of the most interesting things that I learned was the process of bringing a new alfalfa variety to market. From how the plant develops seed to learning where a majority of alfalfa seed is grown, the time and effort involved is much greater than I ever knew. Some of these varieties have been ten years in the making, with a great deal of analysis conducted before the product arrives on the market.

How did the dairy science curriculum help prepare you and help you succeed in this internship: Being a Forage Management intern, I worked with several dairies, ranging in size from 45 cows to 3,000 cows. Going into this internship, I had a fairly decent understanding on how a ruminant functions, as well as on various physiological and biological processes vital to dairy cattle. My nutrition courses definitely helped give me a broad overview of the importance of alfalfa and other forages in a dairy ration. Through classes such as dairy management, I also learned the importance of properly harvesting and ensiling forages and what factors could come into play if this were not done. Through talking with producers, I was able to answer some of their questions due to some of the things that I had learned through coursework that I have taken through the Dairy Science Department as well.

How does this internship fit with your long-term goals: This internship fit very well with my long-term goals. I learned a lot this summer interning for Winfield Solutions and loved the mix of research along with working with growers. I want to be able to help growers more with their forages as well as with their rations. I hope to go to graduate school for a joint masters in agronomy and dairy nutrition, then either enter industry or go on for a PhD. I love working with growers and could see myself doing something involving both the growing of forages, as well as how they are fed to dairy cattle.