The Cow Judging Contest has been part of the Hoard's Dairyman brand for 86 years. Images of the cows were originally printed in just black and white, and then eventually in color. Last year we created online judging for those wanting to avoid the hassle of mailing an entry.
The one thing that has remained constant is how the contest is scored. Retired Hoard's Dairyman employees score over 13,000 hand-written entries each year. That number at one time was over 250,000! In the new online judging option, scores are electronically calculated allowing the contestant to see their scores once all entries (including paper) have been evaluated. More juniors have chosen to enter the contest this way than adults.
The online option helps avoid errors with print entries. For example in the paper submission, if a contestant places a class ABCD, but writes ABCB, a score of zero is given because there are not two B cows and it is unknown which one was intended to be D. The online version will reject a placing with duplicate letters. Entries arrive electronically, in the mail, via fax, and even hand delivered to our offices in Fort Atkinson. Entries received by midnight (Central time) on the day of closing are eligible for prizes.
The scoring process begins with evaluating each entry's placing for each class and applying the appropriate score. Another group then adds the five class scores for an overall point value. The high placings are double checked for accuracy. Then, the top paper entry scores are compared to the online scores. Next, the two groups are merged to determine the overall winners, and any ties are broken by the selection of a Supreme Champion.
We often get calls wanting to know the results shortly after the contest closes, but we are still in the process of scoring thousands of entries. So, to help curb the anxiety for the results, we publish the identity of the cows, along with their conformation and production data in the April 10 issue while the official placings can be found in the April 25 issue. The names of the winners in our junior and senior division and FFA advisor category are printed in the May 10 issue, along with the top families, FFA chapters, 4-H clubs, college teams and ag boards.
So, in a few days you will know more about the cows, which may make you more confident in your placings . . . or a tad more apprehensive. The official judges use the same photos (at the same size) as all contestants and they remain unaware of the farm or the cows' identities.
4-H and FFA organizations receive a judging booklet (with all five classes) for each member if they have entered in the past two years. If you want to be put on the Cow Judging Contest organization list to get free booklets or if you need to change the contact person for your group, contact our office.
Chances are, if you have had a Cow Judging Contest question, Hoard's Dairyman office manager, Karen Kutz, most likely has been the helpful voice on the phone. Whether it is answering a question or leading you through the online registration, Karen is the go-to Cow Judging Contest person. She was instrumental in developing the online contest because of her intimate knowledge of the contest for the past 17 years. "Karen loves talking to our readers about the contest and she looks forward to it each year," remarked managing editor Corey Geiger.
In addition, Karen leads the scoring brigade and ultimately is the final fact checker and score evaluator to determine winners. "It's a role Karen carries out with great gusto. We are indebted to Karen for serving our readers with great care."
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.