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Pa. teen is a world-class judge of cows

July 07, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL


The highest-scoring individual in an international dairy judging competition milks cows, does field work and helps build a shed at her family's farm in Franklin County, Pa. Next week, she will attend freshman orientation at Virginia Tech, where she plans to major in biochemistry.

Meagan Meyers, 17, along with the other three members of the James Buchanan High School FFA Dairy Judging Team, competed in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Scottish Royal Highland Show, an agricultural exposition that included livestock and dairy shows, farm machinery, flowers, forestry products, woolens and dog trials.

The daughter of Gina Miller and the late Stanley Meyers and stepdaughter of Charles Miller, Meagan said that being named first high individual in the world was "really neat, really incredible. I was so excited."


When she returned home to the family's Greencastle, Pa., farm Tuesday evening from the two-week trip, which included touring farms in Europe, her family was "bouncing off the walls. We had ice cream, and my grandparents came over, and I was able to talk a little about what happened," she said Wednesday.

What happened was that Meagan beat out all of the competition when it comes to knowing about dairy cattle. She was up against the best of the best from the United States, Canada, Scotland and England, including the first place national 4-H team and "a junior college team of five guys. I didn't expect to do quite as well because they're the best in their divisions."

When the JB team won the national competition in Louisville, Ky., last fall, they competed as a team, but in Scotland they competed as pairs and individuals.

Meagan said she changed her judging strategy slightly because she knew that in Scotland more emphasis is put on the cow's front end.

"One time I put a fatter cow up a little higher because she was stronger in the front end; here, I would have put her third or fourth, but I put her up to second," Meagan said.

Lisa Shaw, ag teacher and dairy judging coach, accompanied the students to the event, where all placed high. John Fisher was third in the world, Aaron Horst was sixth and Shaina Martin was ninth.

Competitors were given far less time to score cows and give reasons for their placings than they are in the United States, Shaw said.

Horst, 18, of Edenville, Pa., in St. Thomas Township, said that was "hard to deal with. We're used to 15 minutes a class and we got about five minutes. I wasn't ready for that."

Horst stayed for two days on a farm in Belgium that had 45 dairy cows and 800 hogs.

"We did a lot of work with the pigs, which I had never done before," Horst said. "The family had never been out of Belgium in their life, and Belgium is about the size of Maryland. I couldn't imagine how sheltered they were."

"But after having Americans in their house, they wanted to see how America was," he said.

Not all of the trip was in rural areas. The group saw Paris, rode the subways and climbed the Eiffel Tower.

"Paris was really huge," Horst said. "Up on the Eiffel Tower, it looked like (the distance from) Hagerstown to Chambersburg."

Fisher, 18, of Greencastle, said the competition was shorter than others in which he has participated.

"All we had to do was judge four cow classes, two Holstein and two Ayrshire," Fisher said. "We had to judge a lot faster than we're used to, but that wasn't a problem for me."

"The trip was definitely the experience of a lifetime," Fisher said. "We saw everything from sheep farms to beef to dairy to hogs."

He noted many differences in agriculture between the United Kingdom and the continental European countries. English and Scottish farmers can't grow much corn because of the climate, he said, and have to use minerals or green-chopped wheat and barley to give the cows the proper nutrition.

Horst, Meyers and Fisher plan to attend Virginia Tech this fall, while Martin will be going to Penn State. All except Meagan will major in dairy science, and all plan to be on collegiate dairy judging teams.

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