Jan. 30 2013 08:26 AM

The long-standing county quota system has been eliminated.

One of the most popular activities for Wisconsin dairy youth is exhibiting at the state fair. Last year, there were over 800 dairy exhibitors. It is encouraging in an era of declining dairy farm numbers to see the demand for this activity stay at a high level. However, not all juniors can participate because the facility cannot accommodate all of the cattle and juniors that would like to exhibit.

With limited space at the state fairgrounds, only 900 to 1,000 head can be housed for the week-long event. In the past, each Wisconsin county was allocated a maximum number of entries. They could bring less, but they risk having their quota for next year lowered. Counties bringing the maximum may have gained quotas. There were challenges at the county level to determine which animals would be exhibited – take the very best animals regardless of ownership, allow the older youth priority over the younger ones, and so forth. The scenarios were at times difficult for the county to determine the animals and exhibitors. Some held shows to decide, while others had a county committee to pick the entries. Regardless of the method, the county leaders had input into the selection process and approved the quality of animals being presented.

Showmanship class at Wisconsin State Fair

With 2013 changes, the quota system has been tossed. Youth can still only enter one or two head, depending on their age. (To exhibit at the state fair, they must be at least 12 years old and not over 19. Younger members are limited to just one entry until age 14.) The county/club/organization is still involved. They are contacted to verify the enrollment eligibility of the youth in its program, but only after the entries have been submitted. The goal is to allow some of the counties with lower quota to be able to bring more animals and exhibitors to the show. The quota system was not very flexible. If there was a surge of new youth in the county, they might have to wait awhile to be able to show.

Now, it is everyone for themselves with no county input. Entries are submitted directly to the state fair. The youth determines which of his or her project animals gets entered, not a third party. The fastest ones to enter get to show. While the limit of one to two head still holds true, members who could previously take just one animal due to county quotas can now enter and take two animals. This could leave some counties with no cattle entries or youth exhibitors. The goal was to expand opportunities for smaller counties, but these changes will take away opportunities from others due to space limitations.

Some institutions are slow to change and commit to tradition for far too log, and therefore impede progress. As the state fair entry process begins, we will soon learn if the quotas of the past were a sound equalizer or if the new method is actually beneficial to more exhibitors.

Some Wisconsin State Fair exhibitors

A few of the 800 dairy youth exhibitors at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Do you have thoughts on show quotas? If so, feel free to comment below. Include your state to help readers relate to your perspective.

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