Youth gain life skills from judging dairy cattle

This time of year, Michigan 4-H’ers and college students involved in dairy cattle judging are busy getting ready for fall competitions – but what do these young adults really get out of these experiences?

As Michigan 4-H participants and college students gear up for the season’s dairy cattle judging, many may wonder what motivates them to participate. In two words: life skills!

Most youth involved in dairy cattle judging are really involved in the dairy industry. They either grew up on a dairy farm or raised dairy heifers for their 4-H projects. Ultimately, they all have something in common: a love for looking at great dairy cattle. As youth start learning the skill of judging or evaluating dairy cattle, they are also learning many other skills that come along with the experience.

First, they have to learn how to communicate. Youth can’t just rank the cattle they like, they must also explain to judges why they placed the cattle the way they did. Communicating in the dairy judging competition is called “oral reasons.” Oral Reason scores represent a portion of the final score for the individual, so developing the communication skills is really important.

Second, youth are learning decision making. Youth learn the standards of each of the breeds. They must make decisions by comparing the four animals they are looking at against the breed standards they have learned. Through giving oral reasons to a contest official, they have to justify their decision.

Third, self-esteem is another life skill that is gained from the dairy cattle judging experience. Young adults are building their self-esteem every time they get in front of a judge and show confidence in the way they place the animals they just judged. These experiences give them the self-esteem to get up in front of people to talk and give presentations.

Dairy cattle judging also allow youth the opportunities to network with industry leaders and see different parts of the state and nation. Youth get the opportunity to take their blinders off and see what the dairy industry has to offer them and what why can offer it. These skills are transferable in many other areas of their life. Whether it is presenting a class project or going to a job interview, young adults involved in dairy cattle judging will be developing life skills to aid them in real life situations.

To find out more information about dairy cattle judging, and how to get your children involved, contact your local county 4-H Program Coordinator.

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