Youth contests find a successful home at World Dairy Expo®

Published on Thu, 08/25/2016 - 4:43pm

Source: World Dairy Expo

    World Dairy Expo is known as the place where the dairy industry meets, but for many youth participants, it’s where they meet the dairy industry.It began in 1977 when the decision was made to move the National Judging Contests from Columbus, Ohio, to World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. With this move, Expo welcomed 36 Intercollegiate and 36 4-H judging teams to the grounds. This step was the first in a series of many that have helped to establish Expo as a great place to gain experiences as a youth and to meet key dairy influencers.

Realizing this, the Post-Secondary Colleges decided in 1989 that they, too, wanted to be involved with a national judging contest at World Dairy Expo. The contest is a two-day event that has contestants judge classes of linear evaluations, mating, commercial and registered heifers, a practical, as well as the traditional judging classes.A few years prior, in 1984, the Youth Showmanship Contest was introduced to Expo’s Junior Dairy Cattle Show exhibitors with great success. This success comes from the combination of the best youth and the best judges participating.

“We nominate judges and vote on who we think would be best suited for the role — all the nominees are outstanding showmen, youth advocates and know their guidelines,” says Katie Coyne, the Showmanship Superintendent for World Dairy Expo.For the first time, one of the judges of these contests is coming from a place other than North America. Lucy Carter Middleton, this year’s Junior Division judge, is coming all of the way from England.

The worldwide participation in showmanship does not stop with the judges, as youth also travel near and far to compete. Youth showmanship participants are not required to show their own animal; rather, they are encouraged to participate in showmanship whether or not they are exhibiting an animal in one of the eight breed shows at Expo. For many kids who live outside of the Midwest, it is not cost effective to bring their animals to Madison.  

“It is some young people’s only chance to show on the colored shavings at World Dairy Expo,” Coyne explains.

For the first 17 years of the showmanship contest, the Senior Division required that the contestants not only be able to show flawlessly, but also to be top fitters. In 2010, however, after the show schedule changed and created conflicts with the contest, Rick “RT” Thompson had an idea; the two aspects should be split. The Youth Showmanship Contest stayed on Thursday night’s schedule, and the Youth Fitting Contest was moved to the Sunday before the shows.
The Youth Fitting Contest is looking forward to changes once again this year with a new Intermediate division, as well as splitting the groups into males and females. Coyne says she is also looking forward to having the first female judge for the contest this year, Joan Seidel.

Coyne hopes that these choices will help to show young women that there is a future for them as fitters as well.

Molly Sloan, the Training Program Manager for Alta Genetics, once competed in all of these contests as a 4-Her in Illinois, youth exhibitor at Expo and as a member of the intercollegiate judging team for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.This year, Sloan will be judging on the colored shavings again, but this time as the official judge for the Ayrshire Breed.“Once I started dairy judging, I became wildly determined to do everything I could to become an official WDE judge,” she says.

For Sloan, a few of those steps included competing in the youth contests at Expo. The skills that she took away from them will also be beneficial as she takes center stage. “I learned to stay confident in my own abilities, regardless of how big the stage may be.”With programs that develop practical skills and teach life lessons, youth from across the continent will continue to travel to Madison, WI to compete in judging, showing and fitting contests at World Dairy Expo. As these young people graduate from the programs and continue to return as coaches, volunteers, judges and exhibitors, they ensure that the youth contests at World Dairy Expo will have a rich history and continue to have a bright future.