A keen eye for dairy cattle evaluation

Hammann is top individual at state FFA competition

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BARRON, Wis. — For most of her life, Summer Hammann has been developing the skills of observation, decision making and defending her rationale — all through her involvement in dairy judging.

That work paid off last month when Hammann, a senior at Barron High School, took top honors in the Wisconsin FFA Dairy Cattle Evaluation and Management Career Development Event in Madison.

Hammann lives on her family’s farm near Barron where they milk 40 registered Holsteins and Jerseys and raise beef cattle, sheep and turkeys.

“I started dairy judging in third grade in 4-H,” Hammann said. “I have actually been going to dairy judging practices with my older sister before that, and we would host dairy judging practices at our farm, so I was able to see what it was all about.”

Hammann has been involved with the Barron FFA Chapter, serving as chapter president in her junior and senior years. She competed in the dairy cattle evaluation CDE each year and has qualified for the state level every year.

Coming off her win at the state contest, Hammann is looking forward to next month’s state FFA convention, where she will receive the State FFA Degree and compete as a state finalist for both the star farmer award and the dairy entrepreneurship proficiency.

Alongside her FFA involvement, Hammann is a three-season athlete, participating in volleyball, hockey, softball and track.

When she picks up her clipboard for dairy judging, Hammann said she most enjoys the process of evaluating each cow.

“I just like looking at the cows, breaking them down and evaluating them piece by piece, deciding why I place one over the other,” Hammann said.

Hammann said those early in their dairy judging careers should take the time to learn and understand the parts of a cow, the function of each and what they should look like.

“Having a good understanding of the parts of the cow is really the foundation for the whole process,” Hammann said. “It will carry you all the way through, from placings and type analysis questions as a junior member to developing your reasons as you get older.”

While reasons have not always been her favorite part of the contest, Hammann said, with practice, she has gained confidence in presenting them.

“Reasons take a lot of practice to get comfortable and confident,” Hammann said. “Don’t be discouraged if giving reasons is hard at first or if you don’t do well in your first contest. The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and you learn little tricks that will help you along the way.”

Learning to recall and visualize each cow in her mind has been the key to Hammann’s success with oral reasons.

“When I’m looking at the class, I make note of unique things about each cow that will help me picture her in mind later — the red cow, the black cow, the speckled cow or maybe one cow has a different kind of halter,” Hammann said.

Although she finished as the individual state champion, Hammann said her FFA judging career is officially over, as only the winning team advances to the national contest.

The end of her FFA judging career does not mean her judging days are over, however. Hammann will compete in the 4-H dairy judging contest this summer.

In the fall, Hammann will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She will get financial help by winning the Mercile J. Lee Scholarship, which provides a four-year, full-tuition scholarship and book stipend. The scholarship is based on service, scholarship and leadership. While majoring in dairy science and minoring in agricultural business, Hammann said she is hoping to procure a spot on the school’s dairy cattle judging team.

After completing her degree, Hammann said she is interested in working in the production side of the dairy industry, potentially working as a herdsperson on a dairy farm.

“I have always loved working with the cows,” Hammann said. “They are my passion. I can’t imagine a life without dairy cattle in it.”

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