Students have a cow, and judging it has taught them life skills

Four University students are preparing for a national cattle judging contest.

Beth Hornby

Sarah Olson said she knows many might think her hobby is old-fashioned, but she still has pride in it.

Olson is one of four agriculture students on a team that will represent the University at a national dairy cattle judging competition this weekend in Louisville, Ky.

Competitors rank several sets of four cows based on size, frame, feet, legs and udder. Their rankings are then graded against an official expert’s rankings.

Next, teams are given two minutes to justify their decisions to judges in an oral category. Team and individual winners will be announced Monday.

Although she hopes to place well in the competition, her more important motivation is the life lessons gained along the way, Olson said.

“If you have the confidence to go one-on-one with a judge, you can handle any kind of public speaking,” Olson said. “It even made me want to look into a career like public relations.”

Coach Les Hansen said the team is one of the most promising he has seen.

“They are clearly professional and they want to excel,” Hansen said. “I am proud of them because they are so mutually supportive of one another.”

The team’s strength in the oral presentations makes them one of the best teams in the nation, he said.

More than 30 teams will compete at the Louisville contest, and University team member Trent Olson said he believes the team could finish in the top three.

Hansen selected the University’s cattle judging team – Sarah Olson, Trent Olson, Andrew Sheehan and Erin Wacker – from a pool of eight juniors who practiced this fall on 30 different farms.