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«Figure 1: Parts of the Dairy Cow The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association Dairy Cow Unified Scorecard is the base we use for judging dairy cows. The ...»

Dairy Cattle Judging

Learning to judge dairy cattle can be a very challenging and rewarding process. In dairy

judging you learn to utilize and develop a keen sense of observation and comparison to develop

your placings according to how closely you feel an animal is to the ideal dairy cow. Another very

important component to dairy judging is learning to defend your placing through oral reasons. All

of these things help develop valuable life skills that can be used in other ways all throughout your life.

The first step to learning to judge dairy cattle is to learn the parts of the cow. This is an essential part of being able to judge. You need to know the correct terminology for what you are looking at and talking about when judging.

Figure 1: Parts of the Dairy Cow The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association Dairy Cow Unified Scorecard is the base we use for judging dairy cows. The latest version of the scorecard was published in 2009 and has 4 categories: Frame, Dairy Strength, Rear Feet and Legs and Udder. The scorecard gives us the ideal picture of a dairy cow.

Dairy Cow Unified Scorecard Breed characteristics should be considered in the application of this scorecard.

There are four major breakdowns on which to base a cow’s evaluation. Each trait is broken down into body parts to be considered and ranked.

1) Frame – 15% Rump (5 points): Should be long and wide throughout. Pin bones should be slightly lower than hip bones with adequate width between the pins. Thurls should be wide apart. Vulva should be nearly vertical and the anus should not be recessed. Tail head should set slightly above and neatly between pin bones with freedom from coarseness. Front End (5 points): Adequate constitution with front legs straight, wide apart, and squarely placed. Shoulder blades and elbows set firmly against the chest wall. The crops should have adequate fullness blending into the shoulders. Back/Loin (2 points): Back should be straight and strong, with loin broad, strong, and nearly level. Stature (2 points): Height including length in the leg bones with a long bone pattern throughout the body structure. Height at withers and hips should be relatively proportionate. Age and breed stature recommendations are to be considered. Breed Characteristics (1 point): Exhibiting overall style and balance. Head should be feminine, cleancut, slightly dished with broad muzzle, large open nostrils and strong jaw.

Figure 2: Rump Structure P Reverse Tilt Nearly level Extreme slope from Pins higher than hooks from hooks to pins hooks to pins

2) Dairy Strength - 25% A combination of dairyness and strength that supports sustained production and longevity. Major consideration is given to general openness and angularity while maintaining strength, width of chest, spring of fore rib, and substanceof bone without coarseness. Body condition should be appropriate for stage of lactation. Listed in priority order, the descriptions of the traits to be

considered are as follows:

Ribs (8 points): Wide apart. Rib bones wide, flat, deep, and slanted towards the rear. Well sprung, expressing fullness and extending outside the point of elbows. Chest (6 points): Deep

and wide floor showing capacity for vital organs, with well-sprung fore ribs. Barrel (4 points):

Long, with adequate depth and width, increasing toward the rear with a deep flank. Thighs (2 points): Lean, incurving to flat and wide apart from the rear. Neck (2 points): Long, lean, and

blending smoothly into shoulders; clean-cut throat, dewlap, and brisket. Withers (2 points):

Sharp with chine prominent. Skin (1 point): Thin, loose, and pliable.

Figure 3: Rib Types

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3) Rear Feet and Legs - 20% Feet and rear legs are evaluated. Evidence of mobility is given major consideration. Listed in priority order, the descriptions of the traits to be considered are as follows: 20 Movement (5 points): The use of feet and rear legs, including length and direction of step.

When walking naturally, the stride should be long and fluid with the rear feet nearly replacing the front feet. Rear Legs-Side View (3 points): Moderate set (angle) to the hock. Rear Legs-Rear View (3 points): Straight, wide apart with feet squarely placed. Feet (3 points): Steep angle and deep heel with short, well-rounded closed toes. Thurl Position (2 points): Near central placement between the hip and pin bones. Hocks (2 points): Adequate flexibility with freedom

from swelling. Bone (1 point): Flat and clean with adequate substance. Pasterns (1 point):

Short and strong with some flexibility, having a moderate, upright angle.

Figure 5: Foot angle

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4) Udder - 40% The udder traits are evaluated. Major consideration is given to the traits that contribute to high milk yield and a long productive life. Listed in priority order, the descriptions of the traits to be considered are as follows: 40 Udder Depth (10 points): Moderate depth relative to the hock with adequate capacity and clearance. Consideration is given to lactation number and age. Rear Udder (9 points): Wide and high, firmly attached with uniform width from top to bottom and slightly rounded to udder floor. Teat Placement (5 points): Squarely placed under each quarter, plumb and properly spaced. Udder Cleft (5 points): Evidence of a strong suspensory ligament indicated by clearly defined halving. Fore Udder (5 points): Firmly attached with moderate length and ample capacity. Teats (3 points): Cylindrical shape; uniform size with medium length and diameter;

neither short nor long is desirable. Udder Balance and Texture (3 points): Udder floor level as viewed from the side. Quarters evenly balanced; soft, pliable, and well collapsed after milking.

(Note: In the Holstein breed, an equal emphasis is placed on fore and rear udder (7 points each). All other traits are the same as listed above.) Figure 8: Rear Udder Height

–  –  –

Learning to mark your card correctly is an important part of judging any species of animal.

First you need to make sure you write legibly on your card which looks like the figure below.

Make sure you have your contestant number that you have been assigned, your name and county on all of your cards before the judging contest begins. Once the class enters the ring, the announcer will announce the class name and number which should be clearly written on your card. If it is a reasons class you will also need to write down the class name on your reasons notes. All the animals in the class will be clearly identified with a number. Once you have decided the order you would like the animals placed then you will mark your placing on your card. For example if you want to place the class 3 first, 2 second, 1 third and 4 last then you would mark letter O. You may either circle the combination you choose or put an X next to the combination you like.

Figure 11: Placing Card

–  –  –

Learning to give oral reasons can be one of the most challenging things to learn when dairy judging, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Being able to justify how you placed a class of dairy animals is very important, it really takes learning to judge dairy cattle to the next level. However, this is something that takes practice and patience to learn to do well.

The first step is to learn to take notes. The example notes format on page 9 can be very helpful especially when first learning to take notes. Make sure you write down the class name and your placing on your notes form. Next write down a general description of each animal.

This can be something that helps you remember what the animals looked like in the ring.

Once you are ready to write down your actual reasons for placing each pair of animals in the class remember to list the most important things first. It is also a good idea to develop some type of shorthand or abbreviations for your terms. This will help give you more room to write and organize your thoughts. You always want to list at least one grant for each pair of animals.

Here are a few basic tips for giving oral reasons:

Reasons should be 1 ½ to 2 minutes in length.

Do not use any notes when giving your reasons (notes may be used for junior members giving reasons for the first time) Organize reasons in the following order

1. State the class (age and breed)

2. State your placing (use a brief description of each animal as you become more confident in your reasons)

3. List comparative reasons for your top pair and then give a grant

4. List comparative reasons for your middle pair and give a grant

5. List comparative reasons for your bottom pair and give a grant

6. Restate the class and your placing (may add a reinforce statement as to why you placed the bottom animal last as you become more experienced in giving reasons) Accuracy is critical. Do not lie, make up points or generalize.

Use comparative terms like the terms on page 8. Do not just describe the animals.

Avoid using general terms such as good, or better. Tell how the animal was more correct than the other animal. Make sure you use connecting terms and phrasing to make your reasons flow. Examples include: furthermore, likewise, in addition, to complement this, moreover, additionally, and also just to name a few.

Use transition statements when moving between pairs – A few examples of transition statements are: In moving to my middle pair; 4 follows the type pattern set by 2; In my middle placing, 3 places over 2; Going now to my final placing, of 2 over 4; It is because of this advantage in; 3 places over 2.

When giving a grant statement make sure you change the phrase you use for example you may use statements like: I do concede; I admit, however, that; I do realize that;

however, 3 has; recognizing, however, that; and granted 4 is...

Delivery – use a conversational, enthusiastic voice; be confident but do not yell. Also make sure you do not talk too fast or too softly.

Make eye contact with the judge. Stand with your feet placed squarely apart and do not sway.

Sample set of oral reasons I placed this class of 3-year-old Holstein cows, 4-1-3-2. 4 excels the class in strength of udder attachments and power. Because of her advantage in udder, 4 places over 1. 4 has a higher and wider rear udder attachment, and more bloom to the udder today. Also, 4 displays more strength throughout the front end, being wider at the chest floor than 1. A last point in 4’s favor is she shows more depth of rear rib than does 1. Recognizing however, that 1 is a taller and longer individual.

1, the horned cow, places over 3 because she is taller at the point of withers and is longer through the barrel and shows more length from hips to pins. To complement this, 1 has a distinct advantage in dairyness, being sharper at the withers and showing more definition of the hooks and pins. Granted, 3 is a more powerfully-built cow, displaying more width of chest floor and more boldly sprung ribs.

In my bottom placing, 3 easily places over 2 because of her decided advantage in udder. 3 has a firmer fore udder attachment and more desirable teat shape, criticizing 2’s teats for being funnel-shaped. Furthermore, 3 is straighter over the topline than is 2, with a stronger loin and a tail head that sits more neatly between a wider set of pin bones. I do concede 2 has a longer, leaner neck and is more angular throughout.

I admire 2’s sharpness, however I feel justified in placing 2 at the bottom of this class because she lacks the straightness of lines and strength of udder attachments to place any higher in this class of Holstein 3-year-olds that I have placed 4-1-3-2.

–  –  –

Dairy Cow Unified Score Card. The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association. Brattleboro, VT. 2009.

South Dakota Dairy Judging Guide. June 2009. Publication Number 4HYD429.

Stamschror, J., Seykora, T. and Hansen, L. July 2000. Judging Dairy Cattle. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

The Holstein Foundation’s Dairy Judging Workbook. Holstein Foundation. Brattleboro, VT.


–  –  –

Students Name: _____________________________ Your Placing: ______________

Class Breed and age: ___________________________________________________






–  –  –

_____over ______ Middle Pair _____ over ______ Bottom Pair ____ over ______ Reasons for placing the last animal fourth: __________________________________________



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