Jan. 14 2013 09:54 AM

The Hoard's Dairyman Cow Judging Contest has officially started. To order free reprints, call or email today.

Our January 10, 2013 issue kicks off our annual cow judging contest which runs through the March 10 edition. This year's classes will include Brown Swiss, Holstein, Red and Whites, Ayrshire and Jersey cows.

Even though the contest is on the cover of the first five issues, you don't have to wait for all five magazines to reach your mailbox to complete your entries. Free reprints are available to 4-H clubs, FFA chapters, junior breed organizations, college or tech school judging teams or even an ag-related board of directors by calling us at 920-563-5551 or email judging@hoards.com. When emailing, please give us your U.S. postal address, organization name and number of reprints. In exchange, we ask that you submit entries once every two years to remain on the free mailing list. (Hoard's Dairyman does not sell or rent its subscriber database).

We want to thank our readers for their continued interest in our contest. Last year, we received over 20,500 entries from readers in all 50 states and eight countries. Of the 20,500 entries, 75 percent or 15,500 came from young people age ages 8 to 18.

Each year, we always receive a number of questions about the contest. We will answer a few of them in this blog. If you have other questions, please send them to us by emailing judging@hoards.com.

Do the official judges see the contest cows in person?
The official judges place the contest cows just like all readers: from the contest reprints. Those are the same reprints 4-H clubs and FFA chapters get in order to judge the cows. We have five contest officials, one for each breed. They place the class, write a set of reasons, add cuts (to calculate scores) and vote on Supreme Champion. Official placings are in the April 25 issue.

What about the identity of the cows and the farm?
Only a few Hoard's Dairyman staffers and the Agri-Graphics photography team know the identity of the contest cows and herd owners. In fact, the official judges don't even know the identity of the cows. We detail the cows and the herd owners in our April 10 issue.

When are pictures taken?
We select contest classes almost two years in advance to give breeders enough time to get their best cows photographed. Plus it is difficult to get all of the pictures taken the same day. Remember, three different views must be taken for each cow. In addition, we often take one or two extra cows to make sure the class will be placeable. We then select the best four cows to represent the farm and the breed, yet make a somewhat placeable contest class.

Why aren't all seven breeds in each contest?
Due to our rigorous contest timeline, we cannot add a sixth or seventh class. However, we do rotate some of the smaller breeds that are members of the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (PDCA). All contests feature Holsteins, Jersey and Brown Swiss while the other four breeds rotate.

In 2013, we have the Red and Whites and Ayrshires in our contest (Guernseys and Milking Shorthorn rotate out). In 2014, we have Guernseys and Ayrshires (Red and Whites and Milking Shorthorn rotate out). In 2015, we have Guernseys and Milking Shorthorns (Red and Whites and Ayrshires rotate out). In 2016, we have Guernseys and Ayrshires (Red and Whites and Milking Shorthorn rotate out). Then the cycle repeats itself.

What are the odds of a perfect score?
Let's just say you may have better odds of winning the lottery. Consider this: There are 24 ways to place each class and there are five classes of cows. The mathematical odds of getting all that to work in your favor is only 1 out of 7,962,624. However, our readers have done better than the odds. Of the 5.5 million contest entries we received since 1931, there have been 79 perfect scores. The winners are recognized in the May 10 issue each year.

Remember, entries must be postmarked by Thursday, March 21, 2013.