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Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage

Sr. 3 yr old Reasons Ontario Spring Show 2012I had the opportunity to attend Ontario Summer Show last week and saw something that really got me thinking.  During the Senior 3 year old class, Judge David Crack Jr showed the courage of his convictions by choosing to win with Earlen Goldwyn Secret over the highly touted Craigcrest Rubies Gold Rejoice.

Setting the Stage

By now everyone has heard of Craigcrest Rubies Gold Rejoice.  She is the 3 time All-Canadian, 3 time All-American, Res. Int. Champion from Madison last year.  But who has heard of Earlen Goldwyn Secret?  Her only show winnings of record are 2nd Sr. 2yr at a county show last year.  Their records could not be more different.  Rejoice has people drooling in the barns over her massive size and her amazing frame.  Did this nobody deserve to beat her?

Setting the Precedent

Throughout the day, Judge Crack had always gone with the most correct, most dairy heifers and 2yr olds.  Therefore, when it came time for the Sr. 3yr old class.  To some it may have seemed that he had worked himself into a corner.  He could stick with what he had gone with all day and win with Secret or give in to popular pressure and win with Rejoice.

As Judge Crack switched the two from his initial pull to then place Secret on top, in discussion with the ringside judges it was noted that making that move  would “take a set of balls”.  Big ones! Judge Crack either had to win with Secret or he had to put her into third, as the 2nd and 3rd place cows very much typed in together.

I have always found this to be a very complex and interesting problem.  The Dairy Cow Scorecard is clear on the weightings and you are taught that every animal is to be judged individually.  So then why does a judge have to put cattle in groups?  The best way I can describe it, is to remember what Murray Reisner and Lowell Lindsay once said to me.  “While the judging scorecard is very clear every judge has their preferences, and if you are going to stray from the scorecard in your preferences, you need to be consistent.  So if there is a particular type of cow you like, be consistent.”

Consistency is actually a huge part of earning credibility as a judge.  While everyone may not always agree with your placings, if they can follow them, and see that you are consistent, they may not agree but they will respect your decision.  As a spectator and an avid show advocate this is my biggest beef with some judges.  I would like to tell them, “I don’t need to agree with you, but make sure I can follow your placings.  Follow a consistent pattern, and you will earn my respect.


A question was raised on Friday that I want to address before it goes too far.  “Is Judge Crack favoring his fellow Quebecers?”  Judge Crack’s  pattern was definitely there with  the winning Senior 2 yr Old, Junior 3 year old, Senior 3 year old and 4 year old who would eventually be pulled to the centre of the ring for the final selection of Champions.  Indeed, a heck of a day for Ferme Yvon Sicard, Ferme Blondin and Ghyslain Demers.  However, having watched the classes first hand and knowing Judge Crack as I do, I would say it was more that the exhibitors knew exactly the type of cow Judge Crack likes and knew that it would be worth their while to make the long trip to The Ontario Summer Show.

If you look at the winner of every cow class, they all type in together extremely well.  You had to have a great udder, dairyness throughout and you had better have an animal with great mobility.  That was supported  by an exhibitor of a 2nd place animal who reported that as soon as his cow stuttered (blamed on a rock in the ring) he knew that he would not be winning that class.

Lily vs. Beauty

Watching the Sr 3 Yr Old  class unfold reminded me of 1999 when I had the chance to work with the western Canadian string when  ACME STAR LILY was going head to head with RAINYRIDGE TONY BEAUTY.  With both cows being from the same show string tension and speculation was high to see how Judge Comtois would place these two cows.  Compared to Rejoice and Secret their difference in backgrounds was not as great.  At that point Lily was the two time reigning Royal Grand Champion and Beauty was six years off her Royal win and had won Madison that year.  However, in a similar way to Judge Crack’s handling at The Ontario Summer Show, Judge Comtois stayed true to the same style he had selected all day and went with Lily.  Of course, there was a wide-ranging response from the ringside.

Bottom Line

The biggest thing I love about these cases is that both Judge Crack and Judge Comtois stayed true to what they liked and did not give in to the ringside pressure.  While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the opinion that matters most is that of the judge.  For all those who would have placed them differently, “Fantastic!”  I am sure you could have given a great   set of reasons too. The thing you need to remember about judging is to stay true to what you like. The judge’s job is to set a pattern for the breed. Do that and you will earn the respect of everyone that matters!  It takes guts to pick the glory!



  1. I think they both showed at the same county show last year.  I’m the same as you when it comes to judging I never really understood having to place cows in groups or having certain types and not just the best in first.

  2. The comments originally attributed to Barclay Phoenix by no means represent which animal he felt deserved to win.  The discussion amongst a number of the judges at ringside more reflect the courage to make that move, rather than whether it was the correct move or not.

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