It isn’t often that dairy judging contests are decided by a handful of points, but that’s how a group of FFA students at Chippewa Fall Senior High School snatched victory in late October.
Both in the team and individual categories, Chippewa Falls’ students eked out the highest scores during the 2021 Chippewa County FFA Dairy Judging Contest Oct. 20 at the Herrick farm near Boyd. Chippewa Falls’ FFA team was competing against FFA chapters from Bloomer, Cadott, Cornell and Stanley-Boyd.
Chippewa’s Cayden Blodgett, David Terhark, Mitchell Romandstad and Max Stary scored an average winning number of 219.75 out of 253 potential points. By comparison, Bloomer’s team racked up a team score of 217.5, while Cadott came in third with a combined score of 216.75 points.
“I’ve been around cows all my life,” Blodgett said. “I just tried my best and I didn’t think I’d end up first place, but I guess it was enough to win.”
Individual performances were just as close; the top six scoring individuals all finished within three points of each other. Blodgett took top honors with 222 points, while Terhark, Marcella Boehm of Cornell and Abigail Goettl of Cadott tied for second with 220 points. Bloomer’s Alexandriah Zakrzcwicz and Stella Nelson, plus Romandstad, tied for third at 219 points.
The dairy judging contest tested the students’ agricultural skills, from a 25-question assessment of general dairy knowledge, to an in-depth comparison of cows based on old-fashioned eye assessments, to an exercise where students judged verities of cheese by taste.
Under the supervision of Jason Benson, proprietor of Lymett Farm and the official judge, students examined four cows and ranked them by class. Cows were judged on aspects as varying as shoulder musculature, the animal’s teeth and udder health.
In the cheese test, participants had to identify a set of cheese varieties with only their noses and taste buds as tools.
Jeanna Burgan, the agriscience instructor and FFA adviser at Chippewa Falls, credited the school’s robust animal management classes for the team’s success. These classes always enjoy good attendance, she said, while the students involved are diligent and dedicated to their craft.
Between farm kids and those from non-agricultural backgrounds, the Chippewa Falls group is split about 50/50. Some students have driven cattle since they were little while others are only picking up the fundamentals of agriculture in class.
“When we teach them, they pick things up quickly and then apply it in a different setting. Overall, we have good kids at Chi-Hi,” Burgan said. “Some of these kids are farm kids and they know their stuff, but we were able to provide knowledge and background for the contest.”