Confessions from a bucket calf judge

CJ Warson · Wednesday, July 26, 2017
The Muscatine County Fairgrounds are a special place with special competitions. However, in order to do so its takes all sorts of judges for all sorts of division.

This year the 4H/FFA Bucket Calf Contest was in the hands of Katie Friederichs, out of Walcott, Iowa. The soon to be senior at Oklahoma State University is studying animal science and Ag Communications

It was her first time in front of the crowd of the Small Show Ring on Friday, July 21. But, she gladly accepted the gig from Superintendent Diane Brooks.

“She’s a good family friend,” says Friederichs. “Plus, I’ve been around the livestock industry and the bucket calves, so I’ve seen kind of how it all works.”

There’s a lot of work that goes into judging, not only out in the arena in front of every body but behind the scenes with the participants.

The Bucket Calf Contest requires participants to raise a bucket calf all on their own. They get to know their animal, and even name it.

As the term implies, bucket calves are fed via a bucket full of milk, as opposed to feeding from their mothers. This requires participants to attend to their animal every day.

The contest also requires write-ups from the competitors and interviews. Friederichs wasn’t just judging the calf, but the quality of it’s care and the giver.

“We had our personal interview and that was judged earlier in the week, so I had to have a preliminary ranking for today,” said Friederichs. “Then when they went in the ring, I was able to evaluate them if I still thought that they were in the rankings.”

Basically, Friederichs goes out there with a basic idea of who will walk away as champions, but the final decision comes down to their performance in the ring. As the judge there’s a a lot she’s looking for.

“What I was personally looking for were people that not only were able to convey their project through the personal interview, but they were also able to write it neat and organized in their record book too,” Friederichs said.

“That’s kind of what separated their compatibility,” she added. “[Their] ability to create a neat and organized record book.”

Even though it was her first year Friederichs knew what to look for as a judge, she has experience in the field.

“I personally have an angus calf operation, so I’ve been able to see different parts of the cattle industry,” Friederichs said. “I also was able to show bucket calves when I was little and like I said, I’ve been able to watch the show for a couple of years here.”

All those years have paid off, she enjoys being the judge this time around as opposed to watching or being in the competition.

Besides judging the 4H/FFA Bucket Calf Contest, her next favorite activity at the fair happened earlier that morning, the Bread and Beef Show.

“The ability for these kids that are here showing at the bucket calf today, they’re able to show in the Breed and Beef show in the morning. That’s exciting for me to see these kids come back and return because the cattle industry means a lot to me and to see other people, it’s really exciting,” she added.

During the competition the 4H/FFA club members lead their calves around the arena, as well as line up when asked to by the judge. They’re asked a series of questions in front of every one.

The show was separated into four classes, the Senior Class for grades 9-12, an Intermediate Class for Grade 8, an Intermediate Class for Grade 7 and a Junior Class for grades 4-6.

There was a special moment for West Liberty in the 8th grade group. All five participants were from West Liberty FFA, including Addison Cline, Janey Gingerich, Averi Goodale, Lindsey Laughlin and Isabel Morrison.

In the end Morrison was selected as the champion, allowing her to return for the final class which mixes the champions from all of the rounds.

It’s not easy making those kind of tough decisions. A lot of the participants put a lot of work into what they do, and a lot of pride as well.

In fact, there were around 25 participants in the 4H/FFA Bucket Calf Contest from 10 different clubs during the 2017 Muscatine County Fair.

“It was really hard,” Friederichs said. “Some of these divisions were especially challenging. The senior class, they know their stuff.”
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