Kayla Alward’s loving care for the calves at the UGA Dairy led to her selection as UGA and Southeast Student Employee of the Year. But her activity doesn’t stop there. She’s president of the Dairy Science Club, an ambassador for CAES and the recipient of several scholarships. And yes, her dream would be to own a dairy farm.
South Effingham High School
B.S. in animal science
B.S. in dairy science
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I have received several scholarships that have made my dream of attending UGA possible. I have been awarded HOPE, Zell Miller, William I. Segars Scholarship, Southeast Dairy Check-Off Scholarship and the Cordelia Anne Ellis Scholarship. I also received a scholarship from the university to fund a research project I developed in which I studied milk quality in dairy cows as it relates to the condition of the teat end.
I have also had numerous roles of responsibility while working at the UGA Teaching Dairy. During fall 2015 and early spring 2016, several pathogens began to make the calves on the farm sick. For months I worked closely with the managers and the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine veterinarians to develop new treatment methods, a biosecurity program and new worker routines to help the calves get over their sickness and prevent this from happening again. Since I also live on the farm, I spent several nights and early mornings treating sick calves and making sure they were OK. For all of my work at the dairy, I was nominated for UGA Student Employee of the Year. To my shock, I won this title over almost 5,000 other student workers on campus and then went on to receive the Southeast Student Employee of the Year out of students from 12 states.
I am extremely active with the UGA Dairy Science Club, having served as the vice president last year and president this year. Through the club, I have attended two regional and two national American Dairy Science Association meetings where students, professors and leaders of the dairy industry gather to present research, discuss new ideas, as well as compete in several categories. I have given a 15-minute oral presentation at each meeting on a topic relating to dairy cows that was judged as part of a competition. I won the 2015 Southern Regional ADSA Paper Presentation category as well as the National ADSA Paper Presentation category for the past two years against students from across the country. I was also elected to serve as the first vice president on the National ADSA Student Division Board, where I will work to plan next year’s national meeting. With all of these meetings, I have been fortunate enough to travel the country and network with students and professors from all over the world. Through the Dairy Science Club, I have also been able to attend and compete in Dairy Challenge events in which we evaluate a farm and give an analysis to a panel of judges. Our team won the 2015 Regional Dairy Challenge and will be attending the 2017 National Dairy Challenge in California this upcoming year.
Currently, I am also serving as an ambassador for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. For this role, I have the opportunity to promote the college, recruit potential students and educate the public about the role and importance of agriculture in the world. We foster ties with our alumni and are able to travel across Georgia attending agricultural events and making connections.
This summer, I interned with Alta Genetics, which is a dairy, reproductive consulting company. The application and interview process was intense, with seven of us being selected for positions out of 150 students that applied. I worked and traveled around Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin where I learned reproductive techniques such as breeding and ultrasounding cows. I also had the opportunity to attend both sales and genetics training to further my knowledge of the art of sales as well as picking bulls, matework and consulting to farm managers to assist them in reaching their goals. During the summer, Alta held its annual showcase event in which the company invites dairy farmers from across the world to a certain location in the U.S. to tour elite and advanced dairy farms and share ideas. I was able to attend and assist with setting up the farm tours and met farmers from 31 countries. It was truly an amazing opportunity and lent me skills that will help me pursue a future with dairy cows!
I started working at the UGA Teaching Dairy in March 2014 during my freshman year. I immediately fell in love with the job and the cows. I was given the opportunity to manage the calf program in January 2015 and have been in this position since. I keep track of the calving dates of cows, make sure that calves receive their colostrum after they’re born and then ensure that they grow up healthy and strong! I manage the calves until they are about 12 months old, so at the height of our calving season, I care for about 80 calves at any one time. I register the calves after they’re born, make sure that they are healthy and eating, develop treatment schedules anytime a calf is sick, schedule vaccinations with the veterinarian and manage a group of 10-15 student workers who feed the calves.
Family Ties to UGA:
None of my family members attended UGA as we are originally from upstate New York. However, once I moved to Georgia, we immediately became die-hard fans and for me to attend UGA was my entire family’s dream!
I chose to attend UGA because…
… of the educational and extracurricular opportunities that were available involving animals! I knew when I came here that I wanted to work with animals. Since arriving, I’ve gotten to learn animal science from some of the top professors in the country as well as become involved in animal science clubs that compete on a national level and make some of my best friends who also share a passion for animals.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
… attending events on campus such as South Campus tailgate where we get to bring a calf. It is so much fun getting to introduce people to cute calves and seeing their eyes light up when they realize how lovable and friendly calves are! I love being able to talk with people and answer their questions about cows and dairy products.
When I have free time, I like…
… to visit my family in Florida who have a small farm with goats, horses and donkeys. I love riding and training horses and spending time with my family down there who I don’t get to see very often!
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
While in Uruguay visiting beef farms, the rancher offered to tour us around his farm from horseback. So, we all jumped on the native criollo horse breed and had an amazing ride on a beautiful farm. It was one of the craziest and most amazing experiences I’ve ever had!
My favorite place to study is…
… right on my front porch! It’s very relaxing, with a view of the cows, and is just a really calming place to study and focus.
My favorite professor is…
… Jillian Bohlen, who is an animal and dairy science professor. She teaches several awesome classes and also has a passion for dairy cows. Some of her classes include Introduction to Animal Science, Dairy Production, Issues in Animal Agriculture and Applied Animal Reproduction. I have worked with her a lot both in and outside of class. I have done research with her, worked with her on the team that introduced Jersey heifers onto our farm, consulted her on calf decisions, and attended many dairy events with her. She is an inspiration and role model and has introduced me to several other professors and opportunities for internships and jobs working with dairy cows. She makes her classes so much fun and a great learning experience!
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
I would choose Temple Grandin. I have had the pleasure of meeting her briefly, twice, but would love to sit down with her for an entire afternoon. She has been a pioneer in the field of animal agriculture and animal welfare and I would love to hear from her firsthand her studies on animal behavior and how she was able to develop the methods and tools that help farmers.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
… start my own dairy farm! I love working with cows and would love to be able to produce my own milk, cheese and other dairy products to sell locally. It’s my dream to have a dairy farm like this that is open to the public so people can “meet their milk” and come to appreciate the sweet girls that provide dairy products for them.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
… travel the world with my family. I have been to South America once and would love to go back. I want to experience different cultures and lifestyles and would love to share that with my family.
After graduation, I plan to…
… attend graduate school to get a master’s degree in dairy cattle reproductive physiology. After this I hope to work in the dairy industry consulting with farmers and working with cows.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
One of the first times I walked into the Animal and Dairy Science building, I quickly became lost and turned around on my way to talk with a professor. A professor I didn’t recognize came around a corner and asked if I was lost. He then led me into his office to sit down with him so I could explain who I was trying to find and talk to. We ended up talking for over an hour about classes, my family and what I wanted to do at UGA. The man, professor William Graves, later became my advisor and someone I knew I could talk to at any time. The kindness he showed me the first day was something I never will forget. He took me under his wing and really helped me find my home here at UGA.