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Building a Better Cow

Building a Better Cow

Feb 14, 2019

IN PHOTO: Ag student Sam Ziegler shares his dairy judging skills with high school learners.

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Building a Better Cow

FVTC Students Teach Skills in Dairy Judging

Anchored by momentum from its experiences at recent dairy judging events, a student team at Fox Valley Technical College led the Agriculture department’s first-ever dairy judging workshops for high school students.

The recent event held at FVTC’s Service Motor Company Agriculture Center on the Appleton campus combined morning workshops and an afternoon visit to MilkSource Genetics in Kaukauna. At FVTC, each student taught dairy judging concepts to a group of three-four high school learners representing Fox Valley Lutheran, Chilton, Freedom, and New London. At MilkSource in the afternoon, the students put their fresh knowledge from the morning classes to the test on dairy cows. MilkSource leaders were delighted to help support the learning experience by way of lending access to some of its resources. 

Milk Source is renowned globally for its high ratings of dairy cattle. Kevin Rauchholz, a twenty-year Ag instructor at FVTC, states that Milk Source is home to three EX-97 rated dairy cattle, a rare accolade. A red and a black join a Jersey on the farm to round out an unprecedented Triple Crown level of EX-97 cattle one a single site. It is believed that there are less than six cows in North America with an EX-97 rating.

“I could relate to the high level of engagement that our judges-in-training demonstrated with us,” says Sam Ziegler, who is pursuing double majors in Farm Operation and Farm Business & Production Management at FVTC. “I have learned so much on what it takes to build a better cow from the Tech. Passing that knowledge on to other future dairy farmers gives the industry a pipeline of young and enthusiastic leaders.” 

The evaluation of a cow’s body capacity in terms of how much it can eat and how much milk is produced are the primary traits to keep in mind when examining the animal’s physical attributes. Ziegler views dairy judging as looking at how a cow is built, similar to how a home or most any product is put together. “Dairy judging details a cow’s appearance in order to learn how to improve its health for optimum milking,” he adds.

Feet, legs, udders, and over body composition can hinder or promote a cow’s mobility and comfort, according to Ziegler. Those characteristics were also examined at the Kaukauna operation after each FVTC student teacher taught a workshop with about three-four high school students in which they all explored the makeup of a healthy cow. At the end of the day, the students absorbed what model dairy cows from both the classroom and from the barn.

Ziegler plans to utilize his FVTC education as a springboard to oversee operations on his family farm, a fifty-cow venture near Freedom. Meanwhile, he has teamed up with fellow FVTC Ag students Melissa Remer, Jim Stille, and Mariah Stedl to take their dairy-judging skills to Stillwater, Oklahoma, this April to compete against mostly four-year universities.

In 2016, FVTC placed first in a team event and three students earned top five individual finishes in dairy judging at the World Dairy Expo in Madison. The five-day event included more than eighty post-secondary contestants from two- and four-year colleges and universities nationwide.

Rauchholz, who led the 2016 team, sees his current pool of four students as having the same potential when it comes to flexing their agriculture skills.  “This group that led the dairy judging workshop for area high schools make up a historic team of Fox Valley Tech Ag students,” he says. “Their commitment to practicing the art of dairy judging together and then sharing that knowledge with others is exemplary.”

Rauchholz was approached by several high school Ag instructors in recent years to host a workshop on dairy judging, so this year instituted a benchmark when it comes to peer-to-peer learning. “This is a feather in the hat for our program and our students,” he acknowledges. “Building a better cow starts with an organization dedicated to best practices and lifelong relationships in dairy. Fox Valley Tech brings it all together.”

FVTC offers eleven different degree options in Ag. The college’s most recent Graduate Employment Research Report cites 100% graduate employment for each program with 117 graduates entering the industry in 2017.