I started judging dairy cattle through the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association when I was 10. I remember going to practices once a week, listening to the older juniors give reasons and being terrified to have to do that, I remember going over the basics with my coach every practice and asking a lot of questions. Since then not much has changed, I still went to regular practices, I still asked a lot of questions, I still practiced my reasons, a bit more vigorously though and we still regularly went over the basics. But in the 10 years of my judging career I definitely learned a lot, and not just what a good cow looks like.
One of the biggest benefits I got from my years of dairy judging was becoming comfortable talking to complete strangers. And trust me, I was not always good at this (although many would say I can talk until I run out of air). It wasn’t actually until I started collegiate judging that I started to get comfortable. I decided to really buckle down; I listened to the senior’s sets of reasons, I asked for advice from my coaches and I was my biggest critic.
As I became older my reasons got better and better, I became the WI Holstein Association Princess in 2012 where I had to talk to the public constantly. On my first public appearance I realized I wasn’t even nervous because I figured, what I said to them was what I felt was the truth and what was my own opinion, if they disagreed, well so be it but hopefully I convinced them otherwise. And when I realized, that’s exactly what I do in reasons!
To relate this to the “real world”, back in October I had my first big girl interview. I traveled to Indianapolis for 8 interviews in one day and to present a power point all about myself to a conference room filled with other candidates and interviewers. Now I don’t know about you, but I think the most awkward thing to talk about is yourself. But as I started my presentation, I realized many of the other candidates seemed a lot more nervous than I. When I got to the page in my presentation about extra curricular activities, judging was the first thing that came up, I smiled and felt a overwhelming calm because I had done this plenty before. The only difference was that in judging I’m selling a cows udder, dairyness, strength, etc. and in this I was selling my intelligence, my passion, my abilities and my personality. And in case you were wondering…(drum roll please) I got the job!
Be Consistent in your Efforts
“Practices makes perfect.” Cliché I know…but if you have ever judged in a contest or even at a show, I am sure you know that perfection rarely occurs. But practice can get you pretty consistent and get you close to that “perfect contest”. During our judging season we had practices every weekend, like, I didn’t even make it to a football game this year (my liver is thanking you coaches), and we had at minimum one reasons practice during the week. So to say the least, it consumes your life for the first half of the semester. However, on behalf of my entire team, I believe we are more than thankful for all this time spent on the Bucky Bus and traveling throughout the Mid-West.
Our first contest, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, we took second place team overall and first place tam in oral reasons. We took this momentum to the next step. As a senior your dream is to judge at World Dairy Expo, our team not only had the privilege to judge on the color shavings but also to win the contest! We became National Champions.
I was overwhelmed by our team but even more when I was announced as the High Individual Overall. Practice and being around my teammates made us all think in a very consistent manor and all that hard work and dedication definitely paid off in the end. We were on cloud nine, well, still are!
Coach Brian Kelroy, myself, Cassie Endres, Mackenzie Cash, Mariah Fjarlie & Coach Chad Wethal
After being announced as the High Individual of the contest I was walking to receive my award when a coach from a different team stepped out to shake my hand and said to me, “Your grandfather managed my family’s herd dispersal and I can tell you right now, he would be so proud of you.” As you can imagine; that’s when the tears started flowing. But this was also the moment I was so incredibly grateful to be apart of such a close-knit industry.
Our team was fortunate enough to become quite close with the team from Cornell. Being able to meet others competing in the same contests is half the fun. These are the people I will be working with as I grow in my career. Everyone at these contests have very similar passions and it’s a great opportunity to get to know other individuals who you know you will be running into later on in life.
The UW-Madison and Cornell team took first and second at the national contest and we needed to get a picture together!
And finally, after the contest it was amazing the amount of people congratulating us and introducing themselves to us. It was a great honor to win, but I think it was a greater honor to be able to meet so many influential leaders within the dairy industry who wanted to congratulate us. If I could give any advice to those in collegiate dairy judging it would be to take the great opportunity it gives you to meet others within the dairy industry. Get to know the farmers of the operations you visit, your competitors, team members and coaches, the officials of contest and those that are working in the barn.
Just like anything you attempt in life, you may have some off days. I can remember in a practice this fall we were in Illinois and it was hot and sunny and we were all a bit tired. For some reason I just did not see the cows the way my teammates or coaches did, and to be honest I was pissed. Not at my coaches or at my teammates but at myself. I mean why didn’t I see it that way?! However, I did have reasons for the way I placed it and when I told my coaches they agreed that that also made sense but they would still disagree with my placing.
Well how many times do you go to a show and hear someone disagree with the placing? Quite often. But that’s the perk about being the judge; on that day it’s your opinion. As long as you are confident in what you saw you can’t take what others say directly to heart. Everyone has their right to their own opinion!
Through dairy judging I’ve learned many life lessons, but these four have stuck with me throughout the past 10 years. If you or anyone you know may have an interest in this traditional dairy activity I encourage you to join and take advantage of all the opportunities dairy judging brings your way!
Oh and ON WISCONSIN!
The seniors of the UW-Madison Dairy Judging Team. We were on our way to Arethusa Farm in Connecticut.