Department of Animal Sciences
Animal Sciences - Animal Biosciences
Growing up on a small dairy farm, Sarah Lehner always enjoyed being with the cows; it was not until her junior year that she truly committed to the life of a dairy farmer for herself. That year, while maintaining her academic, extracurricular, and internship responsibilities, Sarah earned her first Brown Swiss All-American nomination. The experience showed her that she could achieve anything she set her mind to and proved the most rewarding of her undergraduate career.
Sarah applied her passion for dairy cattle as a member of OSU’s dairy judging team. Her greatest success came at the 2019 World Dairy Expo’s National Intercollegiate Dairy Judging Contest when her team brought home OSU’s first win at the event since 1986. She credits her team’s extra preparation, and the fact that they had judged dairy together since high school, with the victory.
Her most valuable learning experience came through her management of the Buckeye Classic Sale, a registered dairy cattle sale hosted by Buckeye Dairy Club each spring. Her involvement in the sale grew each year; by her junior year, Sarah was Sale Chair, in charge of managing consignments. She called the experience the most difficult of her undergraduate career. Managing such a complex event with so many stakeholders, each with their own interests, taught Sarah the paramount importance of being her own advocate. She learned that if she didn’t stand up for the best interests of the club, the event would not succeed. Serving as chair again in 2022, Sarah has applied the lessons learned in previous years to make the event an even greater success.
In the summer of 2020, Sarah was a sales intern at New Generation Genetics in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She called it the most important step on her path toward a career in dairy cattle genetics. Handling a four-state territory, Sarah visited over one hundred farms, fostering sustainable relationships with customers and exceeding sales goals. She credits the internship with awakening her passion for sales. Throughout her undergraduate career, Sarah held a total of five internships, including a research position in Dr. Benjamin Enger’s mastitis lab.
Sarah recognized Bonnie Ayars as her mentor and shared, “If you are dedicated, hardworking, and coachable, Bonnie will do everything in her power to help you succeed both in dairy judging and in life. She has helped me develop connections that have led to multiple internships and job offers, and helped me develop the skills necessary to excel in the dairy industry. I don’t know where I would be today without the mentorship and friendship of Bonnie Ayars.”
A first-generation college student, Sarah is graduating with a double major in Animal Sciences-Animal Industries and Agribusiness and Applied Economics. In May she will transition to a full-time role at Select Sires as Genomic Testing Administrator. She plans to continue developing her own elite herd of high type Brown Swiss and Holsteins.
Service, involvement, and accolades: Buckeye Dairy Club, president and other leadership roles | Buckeye Classic Sale, chair | CFAES Learning Community | American Society of Animal Sciences Undergraduate Scholar | National Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge | National Intercollegiate Dairy Judging Contest