November 7, 2007 | By: Carol Lea Spence

The 2007 4-H dairy judging team faced off against teams from the top dairy states in two national competitions. The results? Kentucky can hold its own against the likes of New York, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Team members Megan Bailey, Joey Bentley, Chris Thomas and Austin Webster represented Kentucky at the All-American Invitational Dairy Judging Contest and the National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest. They were chosen for the state 4-H team after participating in the state dairy judging contest in June and several workouts throughout the summer months.

At the All-American Invitational Dairy Judging Contest in Harrisburg, Pa., Taylor County’s Chris Thomas came home with tenth-highest individual in the overall contest. Megan Bailey, from Barren County, received fifth high individual in the Holsteins division.

The National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest was held in conjunction with the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., two weeks later. The team excelled and placed seventh out of 29 teams overall. Thomas and Bailey both joined the All American Club for their individual placings. Thomas received seventh high individual in Ayrshires and tied for sixth high individual overall, ultimately finishing in eighth place after the tiebreaker. Thomas also had the highest placing score in the entire contest, averaging 47.5 out of a possible 50 in 10 classes. Bailey, who also shows Ayrshire cattle, received 18th highest individual overall, with a placing score average of 46 out of 50 for the 10 classes.

Joey Bentley, from Spencer County, received fourth high individual in Holsteins and seventh high individual in Jerseys.

“The contest is very competitive, and this one was kind of interesting,” said George Heersche, University of Kentucky animal and food sciences professor. “We were right in the middle of some of the big dairy states. New York was fifth, Indiana was a point behind New York and we were a point behind Indiana, but a point ahead of Wisconsin and two points ahead of Pennsylvania. We were right in there with the big dairy states. I’m really proud of what our 4-H members did.”

Heersche explained that the team members judge four animals in each class, comparing the animal’s conformation, or physical characteristics, to the breed standards. During oral reasons, team members present justifications for their decisions.

The national contests consisted of ten classes, a heifer and a cow class for each of five breeds: Ayrshire, Guernsey, Holstein, Brown Swiss and Jersey. All team members judge all ten classes and then offer oral reasons for each of the five cow classes. Each class is worth 50 points. Competitors are graded on how well they do, compared to the perfect 50.

“The real plus of the whole deal is that this is an opportunity for these young people to learn valuable skills like oral communication. It improves their skills of observation, improves their skills of logical thinking, decision-making, those kinds of things. The judging thing is something that farm and non-farm youth like to do, but the real benefit is that they’re developing these life skills that they can use no matter what,” said Heersche, who was a team coach.

Larissa Tucker, senior extension associate in animal and food sciences at UK, was the other coach.

Summer workouts provided 4-H youth interested in dairy judging with the skill sets they needed to compete at the national level. Local breeders served as hosts for the workouts, including Keightley-Core Jerseys, Kentucky Bluegrass Genetics, Alpine Hills Swiss and UK Dairy.

This year’s 4-H dairy judging program was sponsored by Kentucky Nutrition Services, Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, Oliver and Virginia Payne, Dairy Farmers of America, KABA/Select Sires, Kentucky Jersey Cattle Club, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky State Fair and the UK College of Agriculture.


George Heersche, 859-257-5987