May 29 2023 09:00 AM

Learning how to evaluate cattle isn’t the only skill gained while dairy judging.

There is no doubt that dairy judging can be stressful. There may even be times that you feel frustrated, tired, or even wanted to quit; I have been in that spot. However, I stuck it out and completed my collegiate judging career this past fall. As I reflect on my judging experience, I realize that evaluating dairy cattle is not the only thing I learned from this time.

Tryouts for the dairy judging team can be intense, and even ruthless. If you make the team, you might think the hard part is over, but then comes judging season. As a member of the Virginia Tech dairy judging team, we were on the road judging the week before the fall semester began. Once school started, we practiced every weekend before World Dairy Expo. It is safe to say we had limited free time and were constantly exhausted.

The lack of free time led me to appreciate my teammates even more. I realized they were not my competition; they were my peers and people who were going through the same experience with me. They made for great sounding boards but even better friends that will last a lifetime.

I learned the value of time and family. During judging practices, I missed many family events. While I was upset in the moment that I was missing out, it made me appreciate the time I did have with them even more.

One thing I value most during judging is that I learned to be confident in my decisions. I have the habit of second guessing myself, and that can be detrimental in a contest. During the national contest I became very flustered, but I calmed myself down by writing in my notebook, “I’m going to pick the cows I like and have a good time doing it.” This split moment of confidence led me to 2nd high individual in the contest. It is important to stand by your decisions with confidence.

Finally, this experience led me to realize that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. I encourage everyone to go for their goals without hesitation. It can be hard, but the outcome can be more than you ever dreamed of.

Madison Sifford

Madison Sifford is the 2023 Hoard’s Dairyman Editorial Intern. She is a student at Virginia Tech majoring in dairy science and communications. Madison grew up in North Carolina before moving with her parents and sisters to Goldvein, Va. Her family raises Holsteins on their Plessed-Rose Dairy, and they also have a small Hereford cow-calf operation.