The 2011 Michigan State University collegiate dairy judging team kicked off a busy year of traveling, long practices and national competitions with a recent trip to Utah to compete in the 96th annual Richmond Black & White Days dairy cattle judging contest with a side trip to a 12,000-cow dairy farm in Nebraska. In June, another group of young dairy judges will be traveling to Europe, and then this fall, university and 4-H teams will be competing in various contests across the country.
The MSU team members who made the trip westward were Katie Arndt, advertising senior from St. Johns; Lauren Bush, animal science junior from Swartz Creek; Tera Koebel, agribusiness management junior from Three Oaks; and Eric Sneller, animal science senior from Sebewaing. MSU dairy judging coach and Extension dairy youth specialist Joe Domecq accompanied the team on the trip.
The team finished second overall in class placings, third place in oral reasons and third place overall. Eleven teams competed in the May 18 contest, held in conjunction with the Western Spring National Holstein Show. Individually, Bush was sixth in placings, Arndt was sixth in oral reasons, and Sneller was fifth in placings.
The group also traveled to Rising City, Neb., to pay a visit to a 12,000-cow dairy operation where two MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology dairy management students are completing internships. Team members visited with the students to learn about their experiences there and interviewed the herd manager about the various aspects of managing such a large operation.
"None of the students had ever been to such a large operation before so it was an opportunity for them to learn how a farm of this size manages its cows, employees and daily operations," Domecq explains.
Domecq said this trip was a bonding experience for the students. He noted it also provided valuable experience for the teammates, who will be charged with juggling judging practices, college coursework, membership in clubs and organizations, and traveling to back-to-back contests this fall.
This trip was an opportunity for the teammates to see other parts of the country since no one on the team had traveled farther west than Iowa. It also served as a prelude for three members of the judging team – Arndt, Bush and Sneller – who will be traveling to Europe, June 22 through July 5. While in Europe, they will visit England, Scotland, France, Germany and Luxembourg. In addition to seeing the sites, the group will visit the Royal Highland Show and compete in a judging contest in Scotland. Each of the three will be assigned to a host farm family in Luxembourg, and each will stay for three days on the farm of his or her assigned family.
The trio earned an invitation to travel to Europe because they were members of the 2009 and 2010 Michigan 4-H dairy judging teams that each placed second at the World Dairy Expo. To earn an invitation, teams must be one of the top three placing teams in their respective divisions – 4-H, postsecondary and collegiate – at the annual World Dairy Expo dairy judging contest held each fall in Madison, Wis.
Joining them on the trip to Europe will be fellow dairy judging team members: 2011 agribusiness graduates Emily Butcher from Owosso and Sara Mowry from Burlington, dairy management sophomore Levi Westendorp from Nashville, animal science sophomore Matt Mann from Camden and agriscience education sophomore Sarah Michalek from Deckerville. Also going on the trip is fellow team member J.W. Hart from North Adams. Domecq will accompany the group on the trip.
"This is the fourth time in the last six years that we've earned an invitation to participate in this trip to Europe," Domecq says. "Dairy judging can open doors for young people and provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In some cases, this might be the only opportunity that some of these students will have to travel to Europe," he added, noting that the participants must raise all their own funds to make the trip, which is an educational lesson in and of itself.
And for Arndt, Bush and Sneller, there is added incentive to pick up as much additional judging experience as possible while traveling in Europe.
"This team is really focusing its efforts on performing well at this fall's national dairy judging contests," Domecq says. "After all, a top three finish earns them another invitation for a trip to Europe."
For more information about the MSU and Michigan 4-H dairy judging programs, contact Domecq at [email protected], or call 517-353-7855.