Youth involved in 4-H, the youth development branch of Michigan State University Extension, have the opportunity to try many new projects, improve important life skills and increase global and cultural competences through travel opportunities. One activity that is part of numerous animal science projects is judging, an event that engages youth in so much more than just learning about their specific animal project. Learning about animal judging for a project area takes a great deal of time and dedication from both youth and coaches, but the benefits gained will last a lifetime. The Michigan State University collegiate coaches of dairy cattle, horse, animal welfare and former livestock and meat science coaches in the Department of Animal Science agree that judging is about far more than evaluating classes.
Youth who have taken the time to learn the necessary judging skills may travel across the country or internationally to judge, but learn much more along the way. Earning opportunities to showcase evaluation, communication, decision making and numerous other skills takes years of practice. For youth involved in dairy judging, the 4-H contest held during World Dairy Expo at the end of September in Madison, Wisconsin, is the pinnacle of a young person’s judging career. Four youth represent this home state on a team on the national stage, competing for top honors and the invitation to judge on the international stage. In 2014, the Michigan 4-H team won this contest. Looking back a year later, Saginaw County youth Bryce Frahm reflects on this experience and the skills and benefits gained through dairy judging.
Frahm commented, “Traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, as a member of the Michigan 4-H Dairy Judging Team was an incredible experience. Not only did it allow me to broaden my experiences in the dairy industry, but it also allowed me to represent my state and hometown in a prestigious national competition. After hearing that Michigan was the winning team at the contest, once again I realized that if you put in an honest effort and work hard towards those goals, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. We also had the opportunity, along with a few other top dairy teams, to travel through Scotland and Ireland for two weeks this past summer and complete in some of their judging contests while touring many different dairy and beef farms in the United Kingdom. Having earned the opportunity to judge at World Dairy Expo and in Europe is definitely something I will never forget and it will be something to talk about and reflect on for many years to come.”
In 2015, four new Michigan 4-H youth had their time on the colored shaving in Madison, Wisconsin. Each, through hard work and dedication, were already winners and well on their way to a bright future in the dairy industry.
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