I took this cute picture of our boys the other day over breakfast. I was looking over the Hoard’s Dairyman dairy judging pictures and the boys wanted to see too.
For those of you not familiar, the Hoard’s Dairyman, a popular dairy magazine, runs an annual dairy cow judging contest. For five issues straight pictures of dairy cattle are given and readers are asked to judge them as if they were in a judging ring at the fair. Each issue features four cows, each of the same breed, and readers need to rank them. There is an entry form and the top judgers win prizes.
We have never submitted our results, but use it as a friendly family competition. Tim and I have been “competing” against each other for the past five years. Last year, we let Erik randomly guess and wrote down his answers as well (he actually did fairy well for guessing). This year we will let Jonnie do the same.
We do talk with our boys about what makes a “good” cow. Knowing these things are important. While you never know for certain which cows will be healthy, productive cows just by looking at them, there are some good key things we look for. So why is this important? It is important because dairy farmers need to make good decisions both at auction rings or even with their own herd before milking numbers are established. On our farm, we sell many heifers before they have had a chance to have a calf and milk, but we need to be able to predict which ones will be the healthiest in our herd.
So what makes a good cow? There are five major categories that dairy cattle are judged on: body frame, dairy character, body capacity, feet and legs and udder. You want to see a strong framed cow, with good dairy character, large body capacity, strong feet and legs, and correct, uniform and large (but not too large) capacity udder. Cows that excel in all these areas are considered “type” cows. There is a national dairy score card that goes more in depth if you are interested.
The udder is the most important category on the national score card with it accounting for 40% of the score. On our farm we place a slightly less emphasis on udder and more on feet and legs and body capacity. Our cattle need to be able to walk one to two miles a day in the warm months and need to be strong feed converters (ie turning feed into more milk). Also large udders tend to get stepped on, more muddy and more likely to get infections on our farm. We would prefer tighter udders.
Each year I look forward to the Hoards’ Cow Judging Contest. It gives me a chance to “prove” to Tim that I know what I am talking about. The last three years I have beat him (even though it was only by a couple points). Our family winner gets bragging rights for the day.
Here is to hoping I can sweep the competition for a fourth year. 😉
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitterand YouTube.