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Dairy Judging team takes first place at contest

October 22, 2009

The UW-River Falls senior dairy judging team took home the first place trophy at the 41st Annual All-American Invitational Youth Dairy Cattle Judging Contest held in Harrisburg, Penn. on Sept. 17.

Four UWRF students traveled to Harrisburg to compete, taking first place for the second time since UWRF has competed (the first was in 2007).  The team consisted of Londa Johnson, Sandra Kirchner and Jessica Lundgren, all dairy science majors, and Cortney Kieffer, an agricultural business major. Kieffer placed as first individual overall, while Kirchner placed fifth, Johnson ninth and Lundgren twenty-fourth. They also did well at the World Dairy Expo, held Oct. 3, where Kirchner placed first, Johnson placed ninth, Kieffer fifteenth and Lundgren sixteenth.

The UWRF senior team competed against 14 other collegiate teams in Harrisburg, including the University of Minnesota, Penn State University, Virginia Tech and Cal-Polytech State University. Each team member competes individually to add to the team’s overall score. 

At the national contest, each person individually judges 10-12 classes of cattle. After placing the classes, the participants have the opportunity to explain why they placed the class like they did through oral reasons. At each contest they give oral reasons on five to six classes. Oral reasons require that the participants memorize their placement choices, and they are judged on their reasoning.

“To prepare for this, we do numerous practice sets of reasons throughout the year. Because there are so many classes, judging at a national contest takes pretty much all day,” Johnson said.

The team practices every Wednesday evening and some Saturdays. This year, the senior team met once in August. Steve Kelm, the team’s coach, takes them to different nearby farms so the team is able to see a variety of breeds, such as Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn. They usually judge two to three classes every practice, then come back to campus and give their reasons to Kelm. He then gives suggestions to improve the reasoning.

In Harrisburg, the team judged 10 classes and gave five sets of reasons. At the

World Dairy Expo they judged 12 classes and gave six sets of reasons.

“We do everything individually.  Then the top 3 scores are added together for the team’s score.  The lowest score is a drop score,” Kieffer said.

The World Dairy Expo was the last competition for the senior team, but the junior team is currently preparing for a competition in Louisville, Ky.  Johnson said she believes the team’s success this year was due to the hard work that the team and Kelm put into preparations for judging. She also said it helps that herself, Kieffer, Lundgren and Kirchner have been judging together for more than two years.

“Judging has allowed me to not only do something that I love, but has also allowed me to travel, improve my communication skills and I have gained lifelong friendships,” Johnson said. “I know that I am going to continue to judge after graduation. Judging at college has been one of the best experiences I have had at school.”

Kieffer said she agreed that the experience has been worth the work.

“Dairy judging has been a wonderful experience for me,” she said. “We had a great year by winning [in] Harrisburg. It has taken some hard work and dedication, but it was definitely worth it.”