Nov. 27 2012 07:15 AM

Youth competition stimulates learning

Dairy Bowl competitors

A concept brought to 4-H dairy youth by Maryland extension agent, John Morris, in 1980 has turned into a widely accepted youth activity. Dairy Bowl began in the 4-H program on the national level and with the Holstein Association over three decades ago. Other breeds have followed suit.

The contest includes four team members that answer questions on the dairy industry, feeding, genetics, nutrition, dairy products and current events. The range of topics cover the entire spectrum of our industry. There is not one pool of questions from which every contest's questions are drawn, but from a variety of sources. This encourages youth to learn the concepts, rather than just memorize answers to questions that they do not understand. In addition, new research and current events keep the questions fresh each year. Depending on the contest, it may have questions specific to a breed. The Guernsey dairy bowl contest includes questions about the association's programs or influential bulls or cows.

Dairy Bowl contestants start very young and ages end at high school levels for 4-H and at 21 for most breed associations. Some states start them young with a "pee-wee" or rookie division with juniors as young as seven to get them introduced to the contest format. Their questions are more basic than the older participants'. Also of importance is developing learning habits that will help them with classroom learning as well. At such young ages, their minds can be like sponges when exposed to new and interesting information – they want to soak it all up.

Many state breed associations will be holding their annual meetings in the upcoming months. That means many youth are preparing now for state dairy bowl contests this winter in the hopes of advancing to the national contests next summer.

The material printed in Hoard's Dairyman serves as a source for the contests. Questions are created from the various articles contained within our 20 issues each year. And, many dairy bowl coaches know about our online quizzes. Each month, we provide youth the opportunity to test their retention of the material read in the magazine with our online quizzes. At the end of the 10-point multiple choice quiz, the correct answers are given.

Watch for our 50-questions end-of-the-year youth quiz in our December issue. It includes material from the 2012 Hoard's Dairyman magazines.

There is also excellent resource material in the books that Hoard's Dairyman publishes. The topics cover embryo transfer, reproduction, calf care, feeding, milking, foot care and forages, to name just a few. These books provide a solid foundation of learning with lots of photos. They were not designed to be just dairy bowl source material, but to give youth and adults a concise understanding of the many facets of the dairy industry that are not currently available elsewhere.

So, while Hoard's provides content in the magazine, online and in resource books, learning about the dairy industry is only a portion of the contest. The camaraderie of teamwork, communication skills and strategy are also developed.

We've included some advice from the 2010 national winning dairy bowl team members. You'll notice that they are all having fun, the final component of dairy bowl. Good luck to all competitors this winter!