Two dozen competitors “beefed up” their game Tuesday morning in the 4-H/FFA Dairy Cattle Showmanship judging at the Washington County Ag Expo and Fair.
The participants, ranging in age from 8 to 18 years old, took to the show arena by age group — junior, ages 8 to 10; intermediate, 11 to 13; and senior, 14 to 18 — to display their best showmanship and compete for the ultimate title of overall grand champion.
They demonstrated their abilities to what started as a small audience but grew to one of more than 100 spectators by the time the contest was in full swing. They showed off their skills to Ag Expo and Fair Queen Valerie Mason, who presented the ribbons.
But the person they were really there to impress was solo dairy judge Emily Yeiser.
Yeiser, of Harrisburg, Pa., graduated with a master’s degree in dairy science from Virginia Tech in 2011, after earning her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Penn State in 2007. She has served as a dairy judge at the club, state, collegiate and national level.
Yeiser said the objective in the showmanship competition is to be aware of where the judge is in the ring, keep the cow’s head up and demonstrate control over one’s bovine companion, which typically weighs more than 10 times that of their youthful exhibitors. The average weight of a mature dairy cow is about 1,400 pounds.
From the moment they set foot — and hoof — in the ring, the competitors are on the move, holding the cows by the reins as they lead them in a circle and line them up side-by-side.
A major factor in attaining success in the competition is having a strong, stable relationship and a familiarity with the cow.
For that reason, in the senior showmanship category the 11 entrants were told halfway through to switch cows with the person behind them, to see how they performed with an unfamiliar animal.
“I’d never seen this done before, where you’re switching up animals and picking one you’re not used to,” said Pete DeBaugh of Boonsboro, who had grandchildren and nieces and nephews competing in the dairy cattle show.
The cow-switching challenge was presented only to the senior showmen.
“I think all these youth exhibitors are going to go on and do great things,” Yeiser said at the conclusion of the junior round.
In each round, she lined the contestants up and talked to each one individually, giving each feedback before announcing the winners.
Ryan Snyder won first prize in the junior showmanship category; Sydney Davis came in first in the intermediate category; and the senior showmanship winner and overall grand champion showman was 18-year-old Tessa Wiles, who was accompanied by her cow named Timely Fashion.
In the junior class, second place went to Olivia DeBaugh and third place to Jacob Reiter; in the intermediate class, second place went to Jacob Miller and third to Ashley Davis; in the senior class, second place went to Erin Corbett and third to Cory DeBaugh.