Participation in 4-H begins for many at the age of 8 years old. Members often have lofty goals, and through hours and years of hard work, they often have the opportunity to achieve those goals.
This story can be told by countless individuals across the nation.
Four Maryland 4-H’ers, Kaitlyn Corbett, Hannah Hood, Jessica Sentelle and Jason Zimmerman, were members of the 2010 Maryland 4-H Dairy Judging Team that won the National Championship at World Dairy Expo in October 2010.
Countless hours are logged in preparation of judging classes to perfect oral reasons techniques. Winning the contest in October provided another opportunity and yet another challenge to these young people.
The opportunity was to travel internationally to judge dairy cattle, but the challenge was to raise $30,000 in order to do so.
The group, along with their families and coaches Jeff Semler and Kiera Finucane, came up with a plan, and like the rest of their 4-H careers taught them, put that plan into action.
“Fundraising was a stressful experience, but it also taught us that we must work together and work for what we want,” said Sentelle, of Frederick County, Md.
At the end of May, the fundraising goal was reached, with the generous help of organizations that came forward with opportunities for fundraising, farmers who provided and purchased donation items for auctions, and companies that donated supplies and products for the team to package and sell at various events.
This was truly the effort of an entire state to reach the goal.
“Thank you for helping us achieve this goal and for giving us the opportunity to make this trip possible,” Zimmerman said. The coaches, parents and volunteers associated with the program truly are the reason the youth continue to succeed well beyond the 4-H realm.
The team departed from Dulles Airport June 22 to begin the two-week, five-country excursion. The team visited Royal Highland Show in Scotland and the Luxembourg Dairy Show, where they experienced a judging contest, showmanship competition and cattle sale.
Two team members, Corbett and Sentelle, placed second at the judging contest in Scotland, while Zimmerman was reserve showman at the Luxembourg competition.
“The dairy judging program overseas is quite different from the one in the U.S.,” Hood said. “We basically look for all of the same qualities in a cow, but they put more emphasis on head and nostril size. Instead of standing on the outside of the ring looking in at the cows, we were positioned in the middle of the ring looking out as the cattle circled around us.
“Instead of having the usual 12 to 15 minutes to place each class, we were given only four minutes to make a decision and take notes for reasons. It was very fast-paced.”
The rest of the trip included stops at a dairy farm in England, two days in London, one day in Paris, host farm stays in Luxembourg and two days touring Germany.
“We enjoyed seeing London from the London Eye,” said Corbett, referring to a large Ferris wheel in the middle of the city. “Each city had its own differences and we were able to see all of the sights.”
The highlight of the trip for all of the team members was the host family stay.
“My favorite part of the trip was staying with my host family,” Hood said. “I was paired with another girl on a different judging team and went to stay at a young woman’s home. She was a nutritionist who lived in Germany and was representing her company at the fair in Luxembourg. This was a lot of fun, and we were able to see how she lived.”
Starting in the dairy judging program as a 4-H junior is clearly not a guarantee of international success in dairy cattle evaluation, but perseverance in the program will teach life skills that will benefit the individual for years to come.
“I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and everyone else who has supported me in reaching this goal. This is a huge milestone in my judging career and an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have met a lot of amazing people who have contributed in many different ways to making this trip become a reality,” said Corbett, of Washington County.
For more information, go to http://marylanddairyjudging2008.blogspot.com or call Finucane at 301-405-1392.
The program develops strong, confident individuals capable of making a rational decision and eloquently defending the reasons used in making that choice. Even better, three of the four individuals on this team are already back home helping coach the next generation of 4-H dairy cattle judges.