PLAINVIEW, Minn. – Judging dairy cattle gives Minnesota 4-H members valuable experiences and teaches skills to help 4-H’ers be successful in the future.
“Judging teaches you to follow your gut, and seeing when you’re right is a huge confidence boost,” said Clara Thompson, a member of Olmsted County 4-H. “It helps you to keep confident in the adversity of different opinions.”  
Thompson won the 2022 Minnesota 4-H dairy judging contest Aug. 25 at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.
Thompson’s family farms near Plainview where they milk 120 cows. Thompson has been active in 4-H and FFA throughout her youth, and it was through these organizations that her interest in judging dairy cattle was sparked.
Thompson is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota where she is majoring in animal science with an emphasis in pre-vet. She is an active member of the Gopher Dairy Club, Lambda Delta Phi Sorority and the Sustainable Cropping Club.
Thompson began judging six years ago in FFA after her sister encouraged her to give it a try. She ended up enjoying it and judged in the 4-H contest the following year. Thompson said she plans to judge on the university’s judging team.
“Judging definitely shaped my future plans,” Thompson said. “I never anticipated judging collegiately.”
In this year’s contest, Thompson was the first-place individual and took first in reasons.
“It was an amazing feeling to be named first in reasons,” she said. “When my two friends, Megan Meyer and Megan Ratka, were called, I thought I was out of the running because I didn’t think I could beat them. Then, my name was called. It was awesome to see my future teammates in the top 10.”
Olmsted County 4-H team member Anne Simpson, of Pine Island, Minnesota, placed second.
Along with her successes this year, Thompson also placed eighth at the 2021 North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky.
Thompson is no stranger to the show ring. She grew up exhibiting dairy cattle at local open class shows. One of her highlights was winning junior champion Red and White Holstein at a previous Minnesota State Fair open class show. During this year’s 4-H encampment, she exhibited a registered Red and White Holstein fall calf and was eighth in the showcase.
“Showing is a family affair,” Thompson said. “I enjoy spending quality time showing with my cousins.”
Besides judging Holsteins, Thompson enjoys judging Jerseys as well.
“It’s cool to see how they change from standing to on the move,” she said.    
Thompson encourages young 4-H members to join their dairy judging teams. She said judging takes work and dedication, but the outcome is worth the investment.
“Work has to be put in,” Thompson said. “But, if you love it, it doesn’t feel like work.”