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New Mexico State University

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Dairy Judging Team Forming at New Mexico State University

Las Cruces - New Mexico State University will form its first dairy judging team in more than 40 years in January. NMSU's animal and range sciences department will offer a dairy cattle judging class in the spring and is developing curriculum for a dairy science option.

"New Mexico was named Dairy State of the Decade by popular dairy industry publications, and it's time we had a dairy judging team," said Mike Looper, dairy specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service."There are a lot of students in New Mexico, especially kids who have been in FFA and 4-H, who have a strong interest in dairy judging contests. Hopefully, we'll pick up some of those kids who have experience to be in this class and on the judging team."

Brandon Covey will coach the team when he joins NMSU's research staff in January as a graduate student in animal and range sciences. He plans to take the new judging team to five competitions in the next year, including the Fort Worth Stock Show, which takes place in January, a few weeks after the team forms.

"We're just going to jump right in," Covey said. "We'll review everything in the first couple of weeks and hopefully, we'll be prepared for the first contest." The team's travel expenses will be sponsored by Southwest Dairy Museum. The museum also partners with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service on the Kids, Cows and More project, a program designed to teach urban children about agriculture.

Covey and Looper are already recruiting members for the judging team, which will be made up of students in Covey's spring and fall dairy cattle evaluation classes.

"They don't need any judging experience to take the class and try out for the team," Covey said. "They just need to have an interest in dairy judging."

Covey plans to start out with the basics. "At first we'll study the parts of the dairy cow," he said. "The students will learn to provide oral reasons in judging, and then we'll visit area dairies to practice judging. Then we'll progress to the real contests."

Covey is no novice at starting a dairy judging team from the ground up. As a student at Oklahoma State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications, he helped revive a judging team which had been defunct for several years. Covey and his younger sister, Amy, were both founding members of the new team.

Covey was awarded the title of All-American Dairy Judge at the 1996 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. Looper said the Madison competition is widely regarded in the dairy industry as the premier dairy show and contest.

Covey grew up on a dairy in Locust Grove, Okla., where his parents, Barbara and Stan, still run the business. His father is an accomplished dairy judge and continues to judge several state fairs each year.

"The dairy industry is constantly changing," Covey said. "The ideal cow is not even the same as it was a few years ago when I was judging in college."

Covey's first visit to New Mexico involved a daylong car trip with Looper across the state. Covey was writing a story for Hoard's Dairy Magazine, where he was associate editor. On the road trip, which lasted from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., they saw dairies all along the way.

"It was nice to see how strong the dairy industry was in the state," Covey said. "That's one of the main reasons I wanted to come here."

Looper is pleased that NMSU will again have a dairy judging team. "We are so fortunate to have someone like Brandon who has so much experience and understanding of dairy cattle judging," he said.

Besides teaching the judging classes and coaching the team, Covey will be researching antibiotic residues in market dairy cows.

For more information on the judging classes or the team, call Looper at (505) 646-3019.