Imagine how frustrating it is to aim at a moving target. It can make you feel annoyed, stressed, and even defeated. Unfortunately, this is the very challenge faced by many young dairy exhibitors in showmanship contests across the country. The attributes that can bring someone to the top of the class at one show can knock them down a place or two just as quickly in another ring. Why is this currently taking place?

Even though the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (PDCA) adopted new showmanship standards several years ago, those criteria have been slow to catch on at many shows. Judges often have their own preferences and may choose to disregard certain criteria found on the new scorecard. In some cases, judges don’t agree with the updates, and other officials simply may not be aware of the revised standards.

Whatever the reason, inconsistent adoption of the new scorecard leaves confusion among youth exhibitors, parents, and project leaders alike. Should they prepare using the old rules or the new ones? How do they know what guidelines a particular judge prefers?

We know that some of the best showmen in the world, the ones who lead World Dairy Expo champions across the colored shavings, do not follow the PDCA scorecard to its fullest detail. Over time, experienced exhibitors evolve into their own style of showing.

The same is true for cattle judging. Reasons given by officials at shows are not the same formal, detailed sets given at youth dairy judging contests. But, in order to teach future judges the finer points of giving reasons, we have developed a framework for them to learn from and be critiqued on when defending their placings in a contest. It is only fair that we have a similar set of guidelines for young people to follow when showing cattle as well.

If you are judging any youth shows this summer or fall, take the time to learn the new scorecard. Consider it professional development for yourself as a cattle judge. Some resources can be found at

While you can still have your own small personal preferences, make the platform fair to all youth by following the guidelines set by the PDCA committee. That way, we have a framework from which to train our young exhibitors and set guidelines in which to analyze their growth and success. Plus, well-informed youth, parents, and project leaders will respect your updated knowledge as a judge and may invite you back to future competitions.

This editorial appears on page 358 of the May 25, 2016 issue of Hoard's Dairyman.
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