Earning national championship honors at the National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest last October at World Dairy Expo was just the beginning of the life-changing experience for members of the Michigan youth dairy judging team.
The Number 1 dairy judging team in the country is embarking on a new mission: raising $20,000 to travel to Europe this summer for the International Livestock Judging Tour.
Members of the national champion 4-H dairy judging team from Michigan are: Megan Bush, Swartz Creek; Megan Filhart, Rosebush; Hayleigh Geurink, Allendale; and Savannah Katulski, Goodrich.
The team received an invitation to travel to Europe for the two-week International Livestock Judging Tour in June 2013 for winning the national contest in Madison. The tour includes visits to England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
In addition to seeing the sites, participants will visit the Royal Highland Show and compete in a judging contest in Scotland. They'll also be assigned to live with a different host farm family for three days during their stay in Ireland.
Dr. Joe Domecq, Michigan State University (MSU) animal science specialist and coordinator of the Michigan dairy judging program, will accompany the team on its trip.
Participating in the trip will cost the team $20,000. The amount covers airfare to and from Europe, transportation throughout Europe, lodging, entry to various events and activities, and some meals.
Even though the MSU Dairy Club appropriates a portion of the money they earn from activities such as its annual Spartan Spectacular Sale each spring and numerous businesses and individuals, including dairy judging alumni, provide ongoing support to the Michigan dairy judging program, those going on the trip must raise a majority of the money required.
The group has planned two upcoming fundraising events to raise money for the trip.
Coming up during the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) in February, there will be a "Say cheese!" auction during the Feb. 7 evening program.
Conference attendees will have a chance to bid on one of 10 packages of cheese curds produced by the MSU Dairy Plant. The successful bidders will have their photographs taken with those members of the national champion dairy judging team present at the conference.
Team members will also be conducting a statewide fundraising project every Tuesday now through April in cooperation with the Rosebush Sale Barn, Inc., near Rosebush.
Youth dairy judging team members will be contacting dairy producers throughout the state seeking donated bull calves and heifer calves. The donated animals will be sold through the Rosebush Sale Barn at its regularly scheduled Tuesday sale, and all proceeds will be earmarked towards the trip.
Producers can also donate the proceeds from the sale of a cull cow or another dairy animal marketed through the Rosebush Sale Barn.
Team members will help dairy producers arrange transportation of their donated animals to the sale barn, or producers can deliver their own. Rosebush Sale Barn also has collection points in West Branch and Shipshewana, IN.
Upon dropping off a donated animal at the sales barn, producers should indicate that proceeds from the sale of that animal should be donated to the Michigan youth dairy judging team.
For more information about the fundraising projects to raise money for the trip or to donate an animal, contact Bush at email@example.com or 810-597-9011; Filhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 989-330-9128; Geurink at email@example.com or 616-260-1777; Katulski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-834-2952; or Domecq at email@example.com or 517-353-7855.
In addition to the winning Michigan team, the teams who finished in second and third place overall at the national contest also received an invitation to take part in the International Livestock Judging Tour.
It was the sixth time in nine years that the Michigan youth dairy judging team earned an invitation to travel to Europe - it placed second or third five times in the last eight years - but 2012 marked the first time it finished No. 1.