Jan. 5 2015 07:04 AM

A new way to enter the contest debuts in 2015

Online Cow Judging ScreenshotPrint or digital, it's the same contest . . . with the same cows . . . and the same judges. The only difference . . . You can view the five classes and enter electronically.

For 85 years the Hoard's Dairyman Cow Judging Contest has provided education and entertainment for the millions who have entered. While only a few individuals sort their way to the very top, it provides a competitive learning opportunity in a fun way.

Hundreds of 4-H clubs and FFA chapters enter each year. In the electronic version, 4-H leaders and FFA advisors create a group and serve as its administrator. They then invite their students to join the group with their specific group name. With the electronic option, it will be easier for teams to enter because they can judge anytime and their scores are added to their group. Group leaders can track progress and watch who has and hasn't completed their entry.

Not to be left out, families will also be able to use the group feature. To be considered a family, the group must be at least three individuals and must have at least one senior member (19 or older) and the youngest contestant cannot be under 8 years old.

Ag boards and colleges have group divisions with 10 members on each team.

And in an individual competition division all its own is the high school agriculture instructors. These FFA advisors get to match their skills against others across the country. (Those who help coach FFA dairy teams who are not faculty members cannot enter the ag instructor division. The ag instructor division is specific to FFA advisors, employed by school districts.)

So, for some young people who are involved in multiple activities, they can participate in multiple groups. They only get to place the classes once, but they can join groups and have their scores count in 4-H, FFA and family groups if they so choose.

The entries in the traditional paper contest will be combined with the electronic entries to choose the 2015 Cow Judging Contest winners. And remember, the official judges see just what you do – the printed version or the electronic images. They do not see larger pictures, do not know the identities of the cows and do not get to see them in person. So, everyone is on the same level playing field.

To check out the digital version go to judging.hoards.com. Deadline is Thursday, March 19, 2015.

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The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.