Seventeen teams from Washington to Massachusetts competed in the 40th annual North American 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Contest, held at the famous North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, November 9. Wisconsin’s Polk County four-person dairy quiz bowl team was undefeated when they faced New York in their third round of the day. Wisconsin won this semi-finals matchup and sent the Empire State to the consolation bracket. New York worked their way back to the finals to face Wisconsin again. This time, the result was different. Wisconsin lost, forcing a winner-take-all match for the championship.
After the last question was answered, the Wisconsin team set its buzzers down, relaxed their arms, and joined hands behind the skirted table as the results were read. After team questions, toss-up questions, and written test scores were added, Wisconsin emerged as national champions. Cheers and a few moist eyes erupted from the four ladies dressed in matching purple dresses. This victory halted New York’s championship run of five consecutive wins and keeps their total at 15 total national championships.
This was Polk County’s second national win. They also won in 2011. Wisconsin has only won this national contest three times in the 40-year history of the contest. New York placed second, followed by Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania and Georgia earned honorable mention.
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 bowl competitions are held throughout the U.S.
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 other senior teams, consisting of youth between the ages of 15 and 19. The sources and materials used to form questions are nearly endless, as new information and dairy information is generated nearly daily.
The Polk County team members are Katherine Elwood, Courtney Glenna, Courtney Stream of Amery, and Grace Haase 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 are friends and teammates. It is hard to create a new “team” each year with youth from across a state who may have never even met each other. They might be a team in name, but not necessarily in spirit.
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 are 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.
The deciding factor: Wisconsin’s balance. It was the team’s balance that earned them bonus questions in the head-to-head match and also high written test scores which were added to the overall score. Glenna had the 3rd highest test score, Elwood was 4th, and Haase was 10th. No other state had three individuals in the top 10.
Polk juniors have been actively participating in Dairy Bowl since 2004. Nearly 50 different Polk county youth have participated in this dairy knowledge competition over the past fifteen years. Teams 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. Those initial years were difficult, but it laid a foundation that has enabled current teams to thrive.
Three of the Polk County team members started practicing weekly in the fall of 2017. They were also part of Osceola and Amery FFA’s dairy judging teams and would rotate study material between the two contests. Last fall they began practicing twice a week, including early Sunday mornings and one week night.
Katherine Elwood is a junior at Amery High School. She was raised on a dairy farm and raises market hogs. Katherine was the 2nd place High Individual at the All-American Dairy Judging Contest and 5th in the Junior Dairy Management Contest in Harrisburg this fall. Katherine is vice president of Amery FFA and president of Eagle View 4-H. She also played soccer and was in the Amery Band.
Courtney Glenna is a sophomore. She lives on a dairy farm just north of Amery. She was the 9th place individual at the National FFA Dairy Judging and Management Event a few weeks ago and had the highest score on the written test of over 160 competitors. She competes in state FFA speaking contest and was the Intermediate Dairy Jeopardy Winner at the National Holstein Convention in 2019.
Serving as team captain, Grace Haase is a senior at Osceola High School. She will be attending University of Wisconsin – River Falls and majoring in Dairy Science with a goal of working as a calf specialist upon graduation. Grace is active in Osceola FFA, serving as president. She also competed in powerlifting and track. At the National Junior Dairy Management Contest in Harrisburg in September, Grace placed 4th overall and won the Calf Care Section. Last year, Grace’s Osceola FFA placed 3rd at the National FFA contest (in dairy cattle evaluation) and she competed in two contests in Europe, placing 2nd and 4th as teams. Haase’s family operates a Holstein and Jersey dairy in Osceola.
Ella Williamson was on the team that won the state contest, but was not able to compete in Louisville as she had a role in the school musical. Ella is active in gymnastics, cross country, and is 1st Princess Miss Amery and Miss Congeniality. She was on the 3rd place National FFA team with Elwood, Glenna, and Hailey Clausen in October and those four will be traveling to Europe to participate in the International Dairy Judging Tour next summer.
In Ella’s absence, the team needed a new member. And Courtney Stream answered the call. Courtney is a junior at Amery High School. She is an avid livestock judge, and raises beef, sheep, and hogs, as well as working on a local dairy. She had been studying with the team since the spring and made up years of practice in a few months.
The team is coached by Patti Hurtgen and Gwen Dado. Hurtgen does not live in Polk County; she resides in Fort Atkinson, 300 miles away. Gwen Dado handles the majority of the face-to-face practices. Hurtgen provides material to the team via email, Facebook, and article links, along with a few full-day weekend practices prior to competitions. “I know this team would not be as prepared without Gwen’s regular practices” commented Hurtgen.
“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, and that makes a huge difference,” shared Hurtgen. They read material, watch videos, take quizzes, and listen to recorded questions. When they can see what they learned applied on actual 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.
Dr. Donna M. Amaral-Phillips, Extension Professor and Extension Dairy Nutritionist at the University of Kentucky, has been the contest superintendent for 28 years. She is assisted by Warren Gilson, retired, University of Georgia.
The Dairy Quiz Bowl started in 1980 and has always been held in conjunction with the North American International. That exposition is the largest purebred livestock exposition in the world. Sponsors of this contest include the American Dairy Science Association, National Dairy Shrine, North American International Livestock Exposition, Perdue Agribusiness, Select Sires, and Hoard’s Dairyman.