Crawford County 4-H youth prepare for dairy judging competition
By Katy Zart
Crawford County 4-H members are testing their dairy judging skills today (Monday) at the district contest. The contest is part of Area Animal Science Day held in Gays Mills at the Crawford County Fairgrounds. Fourteen counties are expected to attend the event and many will compete in the dairy judging contest. Dairy showmanship, livestock judging, horse judging, and dairy poster judging contests are also part of Area Animal Science Day, along with other activities and workshops.
Becky Kramer is the dairy judging coach for Crawford County 4-H. Kramer said there hasn’t been dairy judging in Crawford County for eight years but it has been a tradition for the area so she is happy to start it up again.
“Kids used to try out to make the dairy judging team. Now we allow anyone who is interested to participate,” Kramer said.
Kramer began holding weekly practices in late May with the help of Steve Achenbach and Teesha Smethurst, and other past 4-H members and local dairy producers. Practices are held at a different dairy farm in Crawford County each week.
Dairy judging teams are split into age groups. Juniors are youth ages 14 and under, and seniors are ages 15-19. Crawford County 4-H has nine juniors and eight seniors involved this year.
The team has been studying the ideal genetics of a dairy cow by evaluating udders, feet, legs, and overall dairy quality. Dairy judging has helped Crawford County youth to gain skills in teamwork, public speaking, mentoring, and management.
“Whether they live on a dairy farm or not, dairy judging helps them to become well-rounded. They are able to see the resources within Crawford County and understand why a farmer would choose one cow over another,” Kramer said.
Sarah Kearns, a sophomore from Seneca High School, is competing in her second year of 4-H dairy judging. Kearns said she enjoys dairy judging because it is a fun experience where she can learn about different cows. Kearns said she likes that dairy judging can also improve her knowledge as a farmer. In her free time, Kearns likes to ride four-wheelers and read. Back in March, she took sixth place at the Livestock Quizbowl held at UW-Madison, while her team took third. She is the daughter of Tom and Beth Kearns of TomBeth Farms outside of Seneca.
“My dad says I’m the herd manager now,” Kearns said.
Kearns is hopeful about the upcoming competition. The top two teams from the junior and senior age groups at the district contest today in Gays Mills will advance to the state competition at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Crawford County 4-H would like to welcome all youth to participate in dairy judging next year. Interested youth should contact Becky Kramer at (608) 874-4688. Practices will begin in May. For more information on 4-H, contact Amy Mitchell, 4-H youth development educator, at 326-0224.
Katy Zart is a writer at the Crawford County UW-Extension Office.