WOOSTER, Ohio — In a little less than a month, four 4-H members with dairy experience from across Ohio, will represent the state in an international dairy judging competition in Europe.
This will be the first time since 1999 that an Ohio 4-H team competed in the international contest, which will be held in Scotland, with a second contest in Ireland.
Team members include Ella Jackson, of DeGraff; Hannah Dye, of Beloit; and Kaleb Kliner and Tanner Topp, of Wayne County.
Last fall, they qualified for the international contest by finishing second at the World Dairy Expo, Sept. 29 in Madison, Wisconsin.
The team missed first by just one point, to their northern rival, Michigan, but they hope to get another chance to compete against Michigan overseas. They also placed first at the All-American Dairy Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
In Scotland, they’ll compete at the Royal Highland Show, and in Ireland, they’ll compete at the Charleville Show.
The trip will be educational, and memorable.
“I am so excited — I’ve never been out of the United States,” said Dye, who helps on her family’s dairy farm, known as Quality Quest, and also works on another area farm.
She is a senior at Heartland Christian School in Columbiana, and has been accepted at the Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, where she plans to begin her dairy sciences degree.
Tanner Topp, of Wooster, works on his family’s Toppglenn Holstein farm. The main farm is located in Auglaize County, but he lives in Wooster, where he helps care for some show heifers.
He just completed his first year at the ATI, and is looking forward to the trip, which begins June 17, and includes 12 days.
Teammate Kaleb Kliner, of West Salem, has completed his first year at the ATI, and works on the Miley Holsteins farm.
He expects the experience will “broaden my views” about different farms, and also different cultures. He’s especially interested in animal care, and how cows are cared for in European countries.
The team holds regular practices throughout the year, but will need to do some extra practicing to prepare for the international contest. The rules and procedures will be slightly different. They’ll have less time to place the cattle and come up with reasons, and they’ll be split into smaller, two-member teams instead of working together as one team.
But they’re getting prepared for those differences, and whatever they may need to do differently.
“Our kids are going to have a bit of thinking to do,” said Sherry Smith, their coach, and an OSU Extension 4-H dairy program specialist.
This is her first year to lead a state team, but she has about 25 years of coaching experience, including a stint as the former county coach in Wayne County. Two of the state team members were on her county team, so she knows their personalities and their skills.
“It’s quite an honor,” she said. “It was one of my goals and now we’ve set the bar pretty high.”
Smith works as a nutritionist and helps care for some heifers her family raises and sells.
She said she’s probably as excited for the team as they are.
In addition to competing, the team will also visit some European dairy operations, and have time for sightseeing and touring.
But the focus, especially on the days of the competition, is still on performance.
Her goal is to at least finish in the top end of each competition — something she feels the team is more than capable of doing.
“Even though it’s a great opportunity, it’s still about being the No. 1 team,” Smith said. “This team is a really solid, good team.”
Planning it out
The trip will cost about $2,800 per person and about $1,500 in airfare. Thanks to sponsors, the team was able to cover all of their travel expenses, although they will still be responsible for meals.
Although 12 days is a long time to be away from the home farm, Dye said her father and brothers will handle the workload while she is gone. Similarly, Topp and the other teammates have family members who will help out in their absence.
For now, they’re focusing on the trip and everything that lies ahead.
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