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Local 4-H members travel to Europe to judge dairy cattle
By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 10:00 AM
Dairy judging contestants Kayla Leiding, Travis Troendle, Abby Hopp and Jared Troendle toured Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales as part of an international dairy judging tour at the end of June and in early July. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Four local youth had an international, moo-ving experience this summer.
“This judging competition was a new experience for all of us. We now know what it’s like to judge in a different person’s shoes,” said Fillmore County 4-H Dairy Judging Team member Kayla Leiding, of Lanesboro.
Leiding traveled with three other members of the team – fellow Lanesboro members Jared Troendle and Travis Troendle, and Chatfield teammate Abby Hopp — to participate in the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Charleville dairy show in Ireland from June 18 through July 2, also visiting England and Wales while they were across the pond on an international dairy tour they earned after competing in the National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest.
Hopp competed on the national 4-H dairy judging team this past year, and her team placed fourth at the national contest, which meant they wouldn’t be going to Europe. However, the Lanesboro FFA team also went to nationals and placed second, and earned the opportunity to go to Europe to judge dairy cattle using European standards and judging markings, which posed a challenge for the experienced dairy cattle judges. Hopp went as a replacement team member for another competitor who was unable to attend, and she and Leiding returned with plenty of news about the perspective from another judge’s cow-evaluating shoes.
Teams from 4-H, FFA and junior college took part in the international dairy judging tournament in Scotland on June 21 and in Ireland on June 28. The teams from Kentucky, Indiana and Minnesota were FFA teams, the Missouri, Maryland and Pennsylvania teams were 4-Hers, and the junior college teams were from Ohio ATI and Kaskaskia College.
The local team judged Holsteins, Jerseys and Holstein Fresian cows, which are a smaller type of Holstein they have in Europe.
In Charleville, they judged the cows as a team instead of individually, which was something new to them, said Leiding. They had eight minutes per class in which to place anywhere from one to seven animals, depending on how many they had in the class. In the United States, they typically have 12 minutes for a normal class and 15 minutes for a reasons class.
They also judged in Edinburgh as pairs of two instead of a team of four. They had five minutes to place the cows in each class.
“It was very different from what we were used to,” said Leiding. “We had less time to judge the animals, and they were numbered differently than how they are here — we number them ‘1, 2, 3 and 4,’ and they letter them ‘A, B, X and Y.’”
Hopp concurred, “It was confusing at first, but once I got the hang of it, I caught on pretty fast. The whole day was pretty hectic at both shows, however. The contests over there were run differently than those over in America.”
In Scotland, they walk the animals in the same pattern as in America and they also have four animals in a class, just as they do in America. They also walk as close as they want to the animals during the judging process and “they feel their udders and ribs, where that is not allowed in the judging we are used to,” added Hopp.
“In Ireland, it was the first year they had a judging contest — we were their guinea pigs. We judged as a team…each class could have one to 20 animals in a class, and we had to place the top seven as a team in about eight minutes. We also had to write a reason why we placed each cow the way we did,” continued Hopp. “There were other teams at the Edinburgh show from different countries and from different states in the U.S. We only competed against the teams from the U.S., though.”
The team left the competition with ribbons and badges to show that they’d gone all the way overseas to see cows. At the Charleville contest, they got ribbons and certificates for participating, but they also got badges to wear that said they were “visiting judges.” At the Royal Highland Show, they got badges that said they were “international visitors.”
“We took these competitions as an experience we will probably never have again,” said Leiding. “We had a lot of fun judging differently than what we are used to.”
The delegation got to “tour farms, judge at local contests, experience new foods and meal serving styles, shop, tour sites, take a ferry ride, see new things, meet new people, and much more,” according to Hopp.
Leiding added that they went on many different farm tours, and learned about the practices of each farmer and how they differed from farms in the United States. They also toured different cities and the major attractions of each city, including the Warewick Castle, Blarney Castle, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the London Eye, the Ring of Kerry, and the Cliffs of Mohr. They also went to a production of “Wicked” while they were in London.
The differences between how dairy farms are run in the United States and in Europe were obvious and interesting to the students.
“Farmers over in Europe mainly use grass as their primary feed. Some farmers buy concentrates, but most don’t because of the cost, and a lot of them have over 100 cows and they milk in herringbone parlors. They also calve their cows at the same time so during the year they have a break from milking for about six weeks,” said Leiding.
“I learned a lot about how their farms are run,” said Hopp. “The farms in Ireland are generally all grass feed and calve seasonally. This is different than it is for us.”
Hopp was pleased to learn how nice the people were, especially in Scotland and Ireland.
“The new experience was fun,” she said. “My favorite part of the trip was the ‘Wicked’ performance we went to in London, and I would like to spend more time on the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Mohr if I could.”
Leiding observed, “I really enjoyed the sightseeing part of the trip. All of the countries were beautiful, and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to go over there. The weather over there was very nice! It only rained a few times while we were there, and it wasn’t too hot or too cold. That was a nice change. I would really like to spend more time in each of the countries and just explore the sites a lot better. We saw many things on our tour, but there is so much more to see!”
Leiding learned the valuable lesson that “just that setting your mind to something and practicing (it) from such a young age can really pay off. We got the experience of a lifetime and it was all because of the hard work we put into judging over the years.”
Hopp concluded, “FFA and 4-H are great leadership organizations that have shaped me into the person I am today. Without the experiences I have gained through 4-H and FFA, I would never be on the same road as I am now.”
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