A Day of Dairy Cattle Judging is a Day of Concentration

Article from the Landhandler on Dairy Judging from Winter 1974.

Dairy judging contestants judging cows

JUDGING dairy cattle isn't easy. And to become accomplished at the art demands dedication, hard work and a great deal of concentration... concentration like that mirrored on the faces of these contestants who competed last fall in the World Dairy Expo dairy cattle judging contest in Madison, Wisconsin. When the final points were tallied, the University of Missouri team had topped 19 others in the collegiate competition, with Virginia Tech placing second, Purdue third, and the University of Wisconsin finishing fourth. In the 4-H contest, the team from Illinois won top honors competing with 11 other teams from across the United States. Runner-up was Minnesota, while Michigan placed third, and North Carolina wound up fourth. In FFA judging competition, the team from Judia Wisconsin, captured first place honors. Teams that compete at World Dairy Expo spend long hours practicing. They place dozens of classes, and give reasons until they're blue in the face. 

Finally, it's contest day and there's a mixed feeling of apprehension and excitement in the air-much like the electricity that's generated by a championship basketball game at tipoff time. 

There's no sleeping-in this day. Judging contestants are up and at 'em at 5:30am. They have a light breakfast and arrive at the judging arena at 7:00am for final instructions from their judging team coach. The contest begins promptly at 8:00am when the first of 10 classes are led into the coliseum. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions 

The contest is well underway now and you can hear a pin drop. No talking is allowed. The young judges eye each animal critically. They check for dairy character in a heifer; they look for body capacity in a cow. They must compare one animal against the other, selecting the top in each class, a bottom, plus the "middle pair."

Notes are taken on the five classes they'll give reasons on that afternoon. The cows are led around in a circle and when they stop, the contestants move in for close inspection. Time's up. It's noon and the teams lunch together- quietly. Thoughts are more on cows than food, and there's no comparing notes- this isn't allowed.

The afternoon is a grind. Each contestant must give a 2-minute formal presentation of reasons on why he or she placed a particular class of cows a particular way. "I placed this class of Holstein heifers 4-3-2-1. I placed 4 over 3 because she's cleaner about her hock and stronger in her pasterns...." And so it goes all afternoon. As soon as one set of reasons is given to the official judge, its time to concentrate on the next set. It's 5 o'clock before the last set of reasons is given and everyone is feeling the strain. 

That evening there's an awards banquet and the judges give their official placings- the moment of truth. Team and individual awards are made and it's a happy time. It's been a long day, but a rich and very rewarding one. 

Are judging contests worth it? Perhaps the late H.H. Kildee, long-time dean of Iowa State University, put it best: "All life is competitive; therefore, many of the values derived from judging contests apply to daily lives and work. Knowledge, ideals, confidence, attention to details, good sportsmanship, the ability to weigh in the balance the evidence for and against, and the ability to express judgements in a concise and forceful manner are but a few of the values. Of course, the primary objective is to learn to evaluate superior animals. This knowledge is used daily by all who work with livestock."

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