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Caledonia dairy judges place second in state

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 05/20/2013 9:29 AM

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CALEDONIA, Minn. — Caledonia FFA dairy judges are bound for the All-American Dairy Show.

The team earned the trip by placing second in the Dairy Cattle Evaluation Career Development Event at the 84th Minnesota FFA Convention held April 28-30 at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. Team member Aaron Houdek placed fifth in state as an individual.

Last year, Caledonia's dairy judging team placed first in state. Once a student has participated on a state-winning team, he or she is no longer eligible to compete in that event, said Caledonia FFA adviser and agricultural education teacher Brad Harguth. The 2013 team is a new group of students, most of whom have 4-H dairy judging experience and all of whom hail from dairy farms.

Sophomore Justin Stemper is the lone team member without 4-H dairy judging experience, but he's been judging dairy cattle since eighth or ninth grade.

He's grown up around dairy cattle and enjoys comparing cows.

Dairy judges look for animals that look sharp and have a dairy look, he said.

Likewise, teammate Aaron Houdek, a sophomore, likes judging cows and using that information to improve the next generation through breeding selection. He's been judging since he was in sixth grade.

Sophomore Lauren Hendel enjoys working with cows and spending time with her teammates. They often practice at her family's farm, where they place cows.

They most often place Holsteins, but sometimes they place crossbreds and Brown Swiss.

They judge different classes each time. Sometimes their coach, Matt Hendel, tries to stump them with difficult classes.

At the state contest, they judged nine classes total, including two paper classes. They gave two sets of reasons. The contest also included a team activity.

The classes at the state contest weren't too tough, Stemper said. The classes were Holsteins with a few crossbreds.

Some of the classes were harder than others, Hendel said. Some had an obvious low cow, she said.

After the contest on April 29, they compared their placings to the judges' places and had a good idea of how they'd placed as a team.

"We knew we were going to be pretty close up," Stemper said. That night, they found out they were in the top five.

"Being my last year, I was hoping to do well, one last hurrah," said Hannah Hendel, a senior who's been judging dairy cattle since she was a freshman.

Hannah isn't sure if she'll be able to join the team at the All-American show in Harrisburg, Penn., as she will have started college.

Her memory of state convention will be waking up early — 5 a.m. — to judge dairy cattle and the conversations she shared with fellow FFAers.

Team members will practice together before going to the All-American competition in the fall. Houdek and the Hendels will compete in 4-H dairy judging over the summer.

Next year, the FFA team will have to buckle down and shoot for No. 1, Hannah said.

It's likely Caledonia will have a strong dairy judging team for years to come, Harguth said, because he has a lot of younger students with dairy backgrounds eager to compete on the FFA dairy cattle evaluation team.

It's fun working with the kids and even more fun when they are successful, he said.

Harguth credits coach Hendel and Houston County 4-H dairy judging coaches Amy Hoseheit and Darrel Klug for the team's success.