March 11 2019 03:45 PM

The Hoard’s Dairyman Cow Judging Contest has roots that run deep for both the magazine and many participants.

When I was a 4-H member, our first dairy project clinic of the year was always the Hoard’s Dairyman Judging Contest workshop. Dairy leaders from our county would guide us through the five classes of the contest, reminding us about the finer points of dairy cattle judging before cutting us loose to evaluate the cows and determine our own placings. During my time working as a University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agent, I carried on that same tradition. Each winter, I would host a project meeting for my county’s dairy youth, and we would discuss the basics of judging and place the classes.

Since joining the editorial team for Hoard’s Dairyman, I have learned so much more about the contest. As the deadline for the 89th annual Hoard’s Dairyman Cow Judging Contest approaches, here are five interesting Cow Judging Contest facts for you.

1. The first contest class appeared in the December 10, 1930, issue of Hoard’s Dairyman. At that time, the cow classes were located inside the magazine. In 1957, the classes moved to inside the front cover. They first appeared on the cover in 1964, and the classes were printed in color for the first time in 1979.

2. The first perfect score in the contest was received by R.A. Pillsbury in 1933. There have been other perfect scores since then, but the odds of placing all five classes correctly is just 1 in 7,962,624.

3. There are always five classes in the contest, but there are seven dairy breeds recognized by PDCA (Purebred Dairy Cattle Association). Originally, Ayrshires, Brown Swiss, Guernseys, Holsteins, and Jerseys made up the five classes. In 1984, the first class of Red and White Holsteins appeared in the contest, and in 2007, Milking Shorthorns were added to the rotation.

4. The five official judges for the contest do not see the live cows. They make their placings based from the same images the contestants do.

5. Over the years, farms providing the contest cows have come from 35 states and several Canadian provinces.

Since the beginning of the contest, placings have been accepted on entry blanks sent through postal mail. In 2015, a new online option became available. Now individuals, families, and groups can submit their placings online at Check out the website to learn more.

Are you a longtime participant of the contest? Or have you never entered before? Either way, the deadline for this year’s contest is just around the corner. All placings must be submitted online or postmarked by Thursday, March 21, 2019. Secure your spot in Hoard’s Dairyman history and enter today!

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.