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Judging team places sixth at World Dairy Expo

October 24, 2014

The UW-River Falls Dairy Cattle Judging Team took sixth place this year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, which took place between Sept. 30-Oct. 4.

This is quite an accomplishment considering the vast amount of competition that attends the expo; 21 teams competed this year.

UWRF students have been participating in the World Dairy Expo since the 1980s. Each year a new team participates in the collegiate competition on dairy cattle evaluation.

The team consists of four individuals representing the agricultural college in which they are enrolled.

The contestant with the lowest overall score from each team is designated as the alternate.

This year the team of students was: Maria Pieper, Joshua Butler, Matthew Linehan and Tim Borgardt.

A committee of judges places all classes of the animals, hears the grades and the reasoning behind each grade the contestant has chosen. The students are split into teams in order to be able to view the animal for inspection.

The judging consists of six classes of cows and six classes of heifers (yearlings or calves) in the Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, and Red and White breeds.

Then the student must give an oral reasoning on the classes of cows that is two minutes in length.

From left to right, Maria Pieper, Joshua Butler, Matthew Linehan, Tim Borgardt and Professor Steven Kelm participated in the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.
From left to right, Maria Pieper, Joshua Butler, Matthew Linehan, Tim Borgardt and Professor Steven Kelm participated in the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo courtesy of the UW-River Falls Dairy Cattle Judging Team)

Points are earned by each class rank and each reason behind the ranking. The team with the most points wins. Animal food science Professor Steven Kelm has been at UWRF for 17 years. He is also the Dairy Cattle Judging Team’s coach.

He said that the most important aspect of this contest is the reasoning.

Kelm also said that the judges are looking to hear well-organized reasons behind the class decisions that the students have determined. Year after year, this is the most crucial part of the competition.

Because it is a new group of students competing every year, Kelm said it is hard to change his coaching methods.

He focuses on what is important and keeps the students prepared to show the extent of their knowledge when it comes to the oral reasonings portion of the competition.

Most of the students that are on the team are juniors and seniors. They have been involved in the world of dairy cattle for many years and their experience really benefits them when it comes to competing.

“Judging is an incredible experience,” Pieper said. “The communication skills you gain from judging is irreplaceable in life. A famous quote that my judging coach from 4H has always told me is, ‘clear eyes, full heart, you can’t lose.’ Just stick to your guns and go with it.”

The benefit of student attendance at the expo goes far beyond prizes. The “World” aspect of the dairy expo opens the doors for students to meet and learn from many different types of people and experts from all around the globe.

“Join us as one of the 70,000+ dairy industry enthusiasts who make the trip to World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. It is truly the international meeting place for the dairy industry,” according to the World Dairy Expo’s website.

The website as states that the event features 3,248 international attendees registered from 94 countries.

The top five countries of registered international attendance were from Canada, Mexico, China, Brazil and Colombia.

77,204 people attended this year’s expo.

“I had a lot of fun,” Linehan, a senior, said. “I go every year, since I was 12 years old, and I won’t miss a year.”

The experience is something that can really broaden a student’s perspective and connect them to others with their interests.

Pieper’s experience at the expo was “fantastic, it was a great way to end my judging career. Getting sixth as a team overall was fantastic and a great experience.”