May 17 2017 08:00 AM

When it was all said and done, there was one perfect score in the 2017 Hoard’s Dairyman Cow Judging Contest.

Karen Kutz, our office manager, scored a perfect 500.

More than 14,800 cow judges from all 50 states and 15 other countries tackled the five classes in the 2017 Hoard’s Dairyman Cow Judging Contest. The top individual scored a 496 in our 87th annual contest. The winning teams and individuals were revealed in the May 10, 2017, issue of Hoard’s Dairyman.

There was one person, though, that got more than 496 points. Employees of the W.D. Hoard and Sons Company, publisher of Hoard’s Dairyman, Hay and Forage Grower magazine, and the Jefferson County Dairy Union newspaper are not eligible to participate in the annual contest. We do, however, hold our own competition using the same classes. No one gets to see the classes early or know who the cows are, so we are evaluating them just like all of you participating in the actual contest.

This internal contest has been going on for decades, dating back to at least the 1940s. Judging experience varies greatly among our staff; while some people judged dairy cattle at the collegiate level, others have no judging experience other than this contest.

To help even out the playing field, each year Hoard’s Dairyman Managing Editor Corey Geiger holds a “Cow Judging 101” training session one day over lunch to help people learn the basics of dairy cattle evaluation. With that little bit of extra background knowledge, scores around the office have improved noticeably the past few years.

When the internal contest scores were tabulated, it was discovered that one of our own scored a perfect 500. Karen Kutz, our office manager, didn’t miss a point in the entire contest.

Karen plays a vital role in the cow judging contest, as she heads up the scoring for the entire competition, including the internal contest. As she made her way through her own scorecard, she said her eyes got bigger and bigger.

“I was shocked!” she exclaimed. “I never dreamed in a million years that I would get the 500.”

This was quite a turn around, as a number of years ago Karen was on the other end of the spectrum, receiving the award for the lowest score among all employees.

The results of our contest remain a secret until the contest closes, so Karen had to keep the knowledge that she has scored a perfect 500 all to herself for a number of weeks. She credits the “Cow Judging 101” class for helping her hone in on the important aspects to look for in the cows; since she did not grow up on a farm, she says the training session taught her a lot about cow judging.

We had fun participating in this year’s contest, and we hope you did, too! Learn more about the contest cows in the April 10 issue, find out the final placings in the April 25 issue, and check out the winners of the official contest in the May 10 issue.

Abby Bauer

The author is an associate editor and covers animal health, dairy housing and equipment, and nutrient management. She grew up on a dairy farm near Plymouth, Wis., and previously served as a University of Wisconsin agricultural extension agent. She received a master’s degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s from University of Wisconsin-Madison.