Columbia Co. senior team garners top 4-H dairy judging honors

Wisconsin State Farmer
Over 100  youth competed in the State 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging contest held in Fond du Lac, Wis. on August 1, 2022

All eyes were on the cows inside the Cow Palace at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds as over 100 youth stood on the sidelines, evaluating and ranking the bovines during the State 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging contest.

Participating in dairy judging provides an excellent opportunity for youth to not only increase their knowledge of evaluating dairy cattle but also develop and hone valuable communication skills. Being able to effectively defend their ranking of the animals in a timed presentation known as "oral reasons" is critical in competition, especially among top ranked teams.

County teams are made up of their top three scoring individuals from their qualifying contest with the fourth member selected by the county. The county teams then go on to compete at district dairy judging contests during regional Area Animal Science Days for the chance to advance to the State 4-H Dairy Judging Contest. This year's event was held in conjunction with the State Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn Shows in Fond du Lac.

Winning top honors at the Wisconsin 4-H Senior Dairy Judging contest was Columbia County, from left, coach Craig Carncross and team members, from left, Brady Dorshorst, Rebecca Murphy, Paige Sweatt, Ava Hebgen, and coach Nikki Hebgen. Their first place finish qualifies them to represent Wisconsin at the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest during World Dairy Expo in October.

Topping the competition in the senior division was the Columbia County Senior Dairy Judging Team comprised of Paige Sweatt, Ava Hebgen, Brady Dorshorst, and Rebecca Murphy. The team is coached by Nikki Hebgen and Craig Carncross.

The first place finish qualifies them to represent Wisconsin at the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest during World Dairy Expo in October. 

The Columbia County team competed against 50 senior contestants placing ten classes and presenting four sets of Oral Reasons. Sweatt was fourth high individual overall in the contest, and teammate Hebgen was 12th overall. Columbia finished 12 points in front of their nearest competitor. 

Earning a runner-up finish was Wood County, beating third place finisher Shawano county by four points. Wood’s second place finish earns them a trip to the All-American Youth Dairy Judging Contest next month in Harrisburg, Pa.

Team members Emma Dorshorst, Emma Bangart, Brooklyn Schwoerer, and Sara Dorshorst were coached by Tim Heeg and Matt Dorshorst.

The senior division represents youth in high school.

Emma Dorshorst of Wood County was the top individual finisher,  with a 47.5 average score.  Joining her in the top 10 are from left,  Jenna Gries, Sara Kronberg, Paige Sweatt, Dylan Raymond, Kaylee Ferfecki, Hailey Zernicke, Clarissa Ulness, and Sophia Kamm. Missing from photo Julia Searls.

Individual honors

Emma Dorshorst was high individual on the day, helped by a first place finish in oral reasons with 190 out of a possible 200 points and a 47.5 average score.

Following Dorshorst in the top ten of the senior division were Jenna Gries of Manitowoc County, Sara Kronberg of Rock County, Paige Sweatt of Columbia County, Dylan Raymond of St. Croix County, Kaylee Ferfecki of Shawano County, Hailey Zernicke of Shawano County, Clarissa Ulness of Manitowoc County, Julia Searls of Iowa County, and Sophia Kamm of St. Croix County.

Gries, Kronberg, Raymond and Ferfecki will represent Wisconsin at the North American International Livestock Exposition Youth Dairy Judging Contest in Louisville, Ky. in November.

Junior Competitors

Twelve teams and a total of 52 youth competed in the junior division of the contest. Juniors also placed ten classes, in addition to answering Type Analysis Questions (TAQ’s) on four of the classes. TAQ questions are designed to help youth recognize type traits that play a significant role in functional conformation and placing the class.

The team from Sheboygan County finished first in the junior division ahead of Fond du Lac County. Members include, Natalie Mauk, Carsten Huenink, Alison Gartman, and Audrey Gartman. They are coached by Crystal Sinn, far left, and Kelly Jens, far right.

The junior division represents youth in third through eighth grade.

The junior judging team from Sheboygan County easily outpaced second place finisher Fond du Lac County by 23 points. Members of the Sheboygan team included Alison Gartman, Audrey Gartman, Natalie Mauk and Carsten Huenink. They were coached by Crystal Sinn and Kelly Jens.

Runner-up Fond du Lac County was represented by members Cameron Ryan, Dylan Ryan, Isaac Loehr, and Leah Mess. and Joe Loehr. The team is coached by Chad Ryan and Matthew Kramer.

In the TAQ portion of the contest, Laney Neuser of Manitowoc County led the way with 75 of 100 possible points. It was Sheboygan County that topped the team TAQ contest, with teammates Alison Gartman, Audrey Gartman, Natalie Mauk and Carsten Huenink.

Laney Neuser of Manitowoc County, far left, earned high honors among juniors. Joining her in the Top Ten are, from left,  Gracin Speich, Cameron Ryan, Alison Gartman, Audrey Gartman, Dylan Ryan, Olivia Dittman, Eleah Watson. Missing from photo are Braeden Bechel and  Shyanne Hammann.

Joining Neuser in the Top 10 individuals were Braeden Bechel of Pierce County, Gracin Speich of Rock County, Cameron Ryan of Fond du Lac County, Alison Gartman of Sheboygan County, Audrey Gartman of Sheboygan County, Dylan Ryan of Fond du Lac County, Shyanne Hammann of Barron County, Olivia Dittman of St. Croix County and Eleah Watson of Wood County.

Animals from the event were provided by the Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn breeders at the show and Fond du Lac area Holstein and Jersey breeders. The UW-Madison Foundation’s Joe and Sharon Darcey Youth Enhancement Fund and the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation’s Dairy Endowment Fund sponsored the event.