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Morrisville State College hosts regional dairy judging contest

MORRISVILLE, NY – July 7, 2005 - Engaged in deep thought as she cradled her notebook in her arms, 13-year-old Grace Wivell studied the four Guernsey cows in front of her, then recorded her observations, hoping they would match the judge’s official designation.

“I’m constantly flip-flopping the top cow with what the judge says,” she exclaimed, “but I’ve pretty much been right on so far.”

Wivell, of Oneida, was one of more than 120 students from 15 different counties who gathered at the Morrisville State College Dairy Complex for the Central New York Regional Dairy Tour, an annual dairy judging event.

The competition, for 4-H members interested in pursuing agricultural-related careers, involved judging eight classes of dairy cows and heifers, including Holsteins and Guernseys. Each class was displayed in front of members who had 12 minutes to study them, record their observations and rank them before their records were collected and an official judge made his ruling.

Students will be scored based on how closely they match the official judge’s rulings.

In a dairy judging event, participants are ultimately looking for cows that will provide the most functionality and production for their farms, Tom Davis, a 4-H leader at the competition, said. They follow industry judging criteria and are looking for strong cows, cows with sound udders, and strong feet and legs, for example.

Students who place highest overall in the Morrisville event will go on to participate in judging competitions at The New York State Fair and the top 10 from the fair will compete at the national level, Debbie Grusenmeyer, a New York state dairy youth specialist, said.

The dairy judging event provides 4-H members with hands-on experience that will be important in their future careers, Grusenmeyer said.

During the competition, students placed classes of cows based on their knowledge and skill then had to provide oral reasons defending their decisions for placing the cow class as they did, she explained.

“We see this as an important life skill,” Grusenmeyer said. “They are making a decision and then defending why they made that decision.”

Brian Oster, 12, of Canastota, plans to utilize the skills he’s gaining to operate his family’s dairy farm some day. He was happy with his judging.

“I think I did well, but some of the classes were tough to judge,” the seventh grader said.

Jasmine Wratten, 11, of Oneida, dreams of becoming a veterinarian some day and knows this experience will be essential in helping her deal with large animals.

In addition to providing students with valuable experience, Davis said the competition exposed them to a state-of-the-art facility in operation.

“Morrisville has an outstanding dairy facility,” he said. “It’s difficult for today’s farmers to make a living and a facility like this, where research can be conducted and the latest technology is being utilized, is vital to the industry.”

Morrisville’s high-tech dairy complex, located on Eaton Street, includes a freestall barn with an electronically enhanced milking parlor and classrooms connected to dairy cattle management software. Additionally, there are two heifer barns and a calf barn. The dairy complex was recently named a Dairy of Distinction by the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program (NEDFBP).

The college’s dairy programs provide an environment where the latest technology, equipment and methodology are at student’s fingertips, giving them experience in real-world situations learning both technical and entrepreneurial aspects of the dairy industry, Mark Smith, Morrisville State College dairy farm manager, said.

The college offers a bachelor degree in dairy management and an associate degree in animal science - dairy. Both programs are ThinkPad curriculums where the use of laptop computers is integrated into students’ learning.