Virginia Tech swept the awards in several categories at last month’s Dairy World Expo in Madison, Wis. 

The Virginia Tech Dairy Judging Team placed first in the Overall Team category in the Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest, first in three of seven breeds and also won top honors in the oral reasons competition where contestants are judged on their ability to answer questions about bovine management in a public forum.

The wins last month are a continuation of marked success that Virginia Tech has had at the competition in past years and is the fourth national contest the team has won in eight years, with past victories in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

“Dairy cattle judging is an activity that teaches students to make logical decisions and defend those decisions verbally,” said Katharine Knowlton, a professor of dairy science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Knowlton coaches the team along with Michael Barnes, professor emeritus of dairy science.

“As is true of any judging team in life sciences — whether it’s soil, crops, or horses — the benefit isn’t so much the ability to identify the best cow, but instead the ability to assess a situation, collect information, prioritize, make a rational decision, and justify that decision," she said. "These are skills employers value greatly, and judging team alumni are highly sought after for employment and graduate school.” 

The students on this year’s team are

  • Lizzie Davis of Union Bridge, Md., a sophomore majoring in dairy science;
  • Mackenzie Moore of Cobleskill, N.Y., a senior majoring in sociology;
  • Mandi Ramsburg of Walkersville, Md., a senior majoring in dairy science; and
  • Lyndsey Royek of Corry, Pa., a senior majoring in agricultural and applied economics.

The team also produced three All-American individuals. Mandi Ramsburg, Davis, and Moore placed first, second, and fifth individually

In addition to team wins, individuals fared well also. Cara Woloohojian of West Greenwich, R.I., a freshman majoring in dairy science, and her Guernsey cow, Wee Acres Spider Clara Bell, snagged the Grand Champion award, beating out almost 300 other cows. It’s a win that is uncommon for a junior exhibitor, according to Knowlton.

Other teams that competed included the Maryland 4-H Team who won the national 4-H Dairy Judging contest. Ramsburg and Davis who are currently members of the collegiate team are alumnae of the Maryland 4-H dairy judging program.

The team is supported by the university and private donors including the Dairy Club, the Department of Dairy Science, the Dick and Jackie Chichester Endowment, the Virginia State Dairymen's Association, dairy producers who allow training at their farms, as well as myriad individuals, alumni, and companies.

"I am very proud of the Virginia Tech Dairy Judging Team — and I have been for years," said Dick Chichester, an 1956 alumni who graduated with a degree in dairy science and was on the judging team when he was a student. He had lunch with the team when they were at the competition and said they were an exceptional group of students. 

"I also commend Katherine Knowlton and Michael Barnes because without good coaches, you don't have good judging teams," he said.



Written by Amy Loeffler.
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