Wisconsin’s team effort leads to national 4-H dairy bowl win

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At the 32nd annual North American 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Contest, held at the famous North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, November 5, 17 teams were in attendance.

“Yes!,” Wisconsin’s Ethan Dado cheered, with arms flung above his head; his fast math skills allowing him to calculate the final score before it was even announced. Wisconsin’s Polk County four-person dairy quiz bowl team topped the competition in their first national contest competition.

The Dairy Bowl program encourages youth to increase their dairy knowledge as they prepare for the contest. They learn life skills – critical thinking, decision-making, problem solving, communication skills, and independent thinking – when preparing for competition. They also gain knowledge in dairy nutrition, milk quality, herd health, breeding and genetics, marketing, dairy foods, and calf raising. Dairy bowls have an extensive reach at the local, state, and national level.

Polk County’s senior dairy bowl team topped the state 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Contest in February, earning the right to represent Wisconsin at the national contest. They outperformed 13 other senior teams, consisting of youth between the ages of 15 and 19. The Polk County team members are Bethany and Ethan Dado of Amery, Brett Getschel and Chris Rassier, both of Osceola. Sending the winning county team makes Wisconsin unique. Most states select their top four 4-Hers as their representatives. Wisconsin, and Polk county had an advantage this year. Team members aren’t just acquaintances, they know each other’s strengths, and genuinely like each other. It is hard to create a new “team” each year with youth from across the state who may have never even met each other. They might be a team in name, but not necessarily in spirit.

Their coach, Patti Hurtgen announced, “I love this team’s energy! They each bring unique skill-sets that mesh well with each other. And the best part is that they have a lot of fun together. There is no member who holds themselves in higher regard. They win as a team, they take defeat as a team. No finger-pointing, no blaming, just “we’ll be ready next time.”

The sources and materials used to form question are nearly endless, as new information and dairy research is conducted daily.

The national 4-H contest is different than many breed dairy bowl contests. A 50 question (short-answer) written test is taken the night before the contest and counts the next day. Scores from five questions from each team member is tallied for each round, for a possible 100 points per round. However, the actual scores that the team earned on the test are not known. Only the two scorekeepers are privy to those numbers until they are revealed after the team and toss-up questions have been answered. Another set of points is earned when answering the discussion questions. During this time, team members can discuss their answers to five questions and the team captain provides the group’s collaborative answers to the panel of three judges. The 20 toss-up questions are when the individual team members can buzz in and showcase their areas of knowledge. After three different team members correctly answer a question, a four-part bonus question is offered to that team only. If all parts are correct a maximum of 20 points are rewarded. If segments are correct, partial credit it given. The judges are all university professors or dairy extension specialists.

And, that was the deciding factor….Wisconsin’s balanced team approach earned them 40 bonus points to New York’s 10. In the final round, Wisconsin’s Chris Rassier correctly answered toss-up question #19 with “manure”, earning 15 points, which gave Wisconsin a bonus, which the team answered correctly. Those 35 points, pushed them past New York to win 275-265. Wisconsin went undefeated through five rounds of competition. New York’s was seeking its tenth national championship, but fell just short, loosing its only two matches to Wisconsin to take second. Third place went to Minnesota, followed by Maryland, Iowa, and Illinois earned honorable mention.

Polk juniors have been actively participating in dairy bowl since 2004. Thirty-two different Polk county youth have participated in this dairy knowledge competition over the past eight years. The team didn’t win a single match the first two years they competed, but their dedication to improve and learn more about Wisconsin’s dairy industry persisted.

The Polk county team members have 22 years of cumulative dairy bowl experience. And each member has four state final round appearances between 4-H and Junior Holstein contests. “They needed all of the lessons from every one of their practices and contests to manage the high-pressure situations today,” remarked their coach of eight years, Patti Hurtgen. “They all know what it feels like to walk away without the final win. I wanted them to finally know the exhilaration of winning that has previously eluded them.” They worked extremely hard for this victory, and they aren’t soon to forget it!

Brett Getschel, a graduate of Osceola High School attends University of Wisconsin – River Falls.  In addition to his dairy bowl experience, Brett is an accomplished dairy cattle judge. At the national 4-H contest in 2010, he was named an “All-American” and was the high individual in the Jersey breed. In May, he helped his Osceola FFA Dairy Judging Team earn 2nd place overall in the Wisconsin FFA contest while earning the highest score overall competitors on the written test. On the national level, he placed in the top 6 in the National Dairy Jeopardy contest in 2010. Brett lives on a 60-cow dairy with his parents and three siblings. He not only works with the cows, but is heavily involved with the crop production on the farm. His knowledge of soils, crops, and fertilizer was a huge asset to the team.

Bethany Dado began her senior year this fall. In 2010, she was the High Individual in the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. Dado just completed her reign as Amery’s 1st Princess. Bethany currently serves as President of Amery FFA and represented Wisconsin at the National FFA Convention in the Creed Speaking Contest in 2009. She also placed 2nd in the state FFA Discussion Meet in 2011.

Ethan Dado is a junior at Amery High School and the most experienced team member, with seven years of dairy bowl under his belt. He was the 3rd High Individual at the 2011 Wisconsin FFA Dairy Judging Contest. Ethan was also a member of Wisconsin’s top 4-H dairy judging team last year. In the National Dairy Jeopardy Contest, Ethan placed 4th in the Intermediate division in 2010. He serves as Treasurer of Amery FFA and is a valuable member of Amery’s track and cross-country teams.

Bethany and Ethan live on a 450 Registered Holstein dairy. They are very involved with the calf and heifer care on the farm. They do the feeding and vaccinating, as well as the cleaning of calf huts and heifer barn. During field work time, they both operate the skidsteers and tractors.

Osceola’s Chris Rassier has been participating in dairy bowl for six years. This senior wrestles at Osceola High School and was part of Osceola’s 2nd place FFA Dairy Judging Team in 2011. Chris’ showmanship skills earned him an opportunity to compete in the very first showmanship contest at the Wisconsin Championship Show in 2010. His educational display took the top spot in the Wisconsin Holstein Association’s contest and advanced to national competition in 2009. Chris’ first-hand dairy knowledge comes through his managerial 4-H project at Horse Creek Holsteins in Star Prairie, Wisconsin. Chris has had the opportunity to work on the dairy. And just like his teammates, has shown animals at the county and state fair.

The team’s coach, Patti Hurtgen does not live in Polk County; she resides in Fort Atkinson, five hours away. She relies on Gwen Dado and Ginny Rassier to do a lot of the face-to-face practices. “I know this team would not be as prepared with out the help of Gwen and Ginny. They were both teachers and we draw on those talents often,” commented Hurtgen.

The distance makes group practices more difficult, and each practice has greater significance. The team has skype sessions, receives email blasts, has facebook chats, and YouTube videos to watch. “I try to tailor the mode of learning to each individual youth. If they learn better by hearing information, I make audio recordings. If they like the interaction of chatting online, I type one questions at a time and wait for an answer, then type the next question,” shares Patti.

These young people are so enjoyable to work with. They want to learn, so they put the time into studying on their own and in groups. They read material, watch videos, take quizzes, and listen to recorded questions. When they can see what they learned applied on dairy farms, they connect the book knowledge to the hands-on learning. This is when the information really takes root and the material is truly learned, and not just memorized.

Teams attended the awards banquet on Saturday evening where the top 6 teams were recognized. The participants with the highest written test score from the night before were also announced. Wisconsin’s Brett Getschel earned 6th on the written test, outpacing his teammates, with Ethan in eighth, and Chris in ninth.

Dr. Donna M. Amaral-Phillips, Extension Professor and Extension Dairy Nutritionist at the University of Kentucky, has been the contest superintendent for 23-years, and she confirmed that competition this year was spirited.  Even though last year featured 20 teams, Dr. Phillips said the turnout of 17 teams this year is an indication that youth training emphasis in the dairy industry remains strong, even in the current challenging economy.





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