It is early February and we are just about at the half-way point in the 81st Hoard's Dairyman Cow Judging Contest. So far in 2011, you have seen the Brown Swiss and Holstein classes on our January issue covers, with the Guernsey class due to arrive next week. Milking Shorthorns and Jerseys complete the roster in 2011. Deadline is March 24, 2011. High scorers receive cash prizes and bragging rights for a full year with family, co-workers, and friends.

But, all competition aside, dairy judging is a valuable activity. Learning the parts of the dairy cow and how they affect their ability to be productive members of the herd is important, such as feet and legs and strong udder attachments. Some of these traits are used to make important culling decisions in herds of all sizes. Learning to make sound decisions when placing four animals in order challenges people to form decisions on their own. Think of people that you may have experienced in a classroom or meeting setting where no one forms an opinion and, therefore, no discussion take place, and no decisions get made. And we wonder why progress is stalled.

Making a decision can be tough; explaining the reasons behind your logic is even tougher. While you think initially that I am talking about "reasons in a judging contest," broaden your thoughts to everyday decisions in your operation. The structured decisions are pretty cut and dry, but those decisions requiring analysis of all factors need to be evaluated and then justified. Do we forward contract, do we expand, when to buy corn, how much to purchase? These decisions all need to be mulled over using the data presented so a sound decision can be made and then explained to your partner, employer, or financial advisor. Even if your decision is correct and logical, the inability to convey the reasons for your decision to others can cause them to doubt your reasoning. Having confidence in the decision-making process and justification for them can benefit people in all walks of life.

So, we encourage you to participate in the Hoard's Dairyman Cow Judging Contest for fun, and we think you can find value in the discussion that follows with family, co-workers, and friends, too. Don't worry; you just have to submit your placings, no reasons needed for our contest! Deadline March 24, 2011. Click here for complete rules and the various club/group category guidelines.

For dairy judging youth just starting, "Judging Guide" is available to
purchase in the Hoard's Dairyman bookstore. It is full of valuable information on the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (PDCA) judging scorecard and lots of colorful photos to practice your new skills.