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The annual Roughrider Judging competition attracted FFA students from around the region to compete in livestock judging, agronomy and agriculture sales contests. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

FFA Roughrider Judging competition attracts competitors from area schools

Dickinson State University's Agriculture Club hosted the annual Roughrider Judging competition on Saturday, Jan. 2.

Area FFA and 4-H contestants were invited to Dickinson State University to participate in livestock judging, agronomy and agriculture sales contests.

"This event is typically held at the beginning of the spring season, and as such was a great first contest for many of these students," Chip Poland, chair of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies at Dickinson State University, said. "Participants today ranged from eighth grade to high school seniors, but many were fairly green in the competition season and were just trying to figure out what these kind of contest actually mean."

FFA members focused on skill development and career preparation through participation in Career Development Events aimed at developing individual responsibility, fostering teamwork and promoting communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement.

"For our DSU Ag Club this was a fairly big production," Poland said. "We look at it as a leadership development opportunity, as most of them came through this kind of program and got to see another side of putting a contest like this together."

Participants expanded their knowledge base by interacting with peers and teachers as well as business and community leaders, gaining a complete and comprehensive understanding on specific career and leadership areas.

"Students competing in the Agricultural Sales Career Development Event (CDE) gain experience and skills essential to the production and marketing of agricultural products," Pete Hetle, FFA adviser at Grant County's Elgin-New Leipzig High School, said. "Our kids got firsthand experience today in related careers and a firsthand look at developing product knowledge and driving sales. The FFA is such a great program for developing our future farmers; it really is a delight to see these kids have fun learning."

The Agricultural Sales contest consisted of students being provided an example product, product information and customer profiles at the start of the event from which they developed a sales plan. Judges evaluated the final sales plan and evaluated students in a written exam that tests sales concept knowledge.

"I got goat milk. You know how hard it is to sell goat milk," Chevy Dhamers, New England FFA competitor, said. "I pitched the health value of the product since it's healthier than cow's milk."

This sales contest is particularly suited to students interested in future careers involving sales and marketing, while also growing student skills in customer relations, advertising and sales concepts — or as Dhamers put it, the easy part.

"The easy part is the sales concept; the hard part is pitching the product to a stranger," he said. "I think I did decent."

In the Agronomy Career Development Event (CDE) students had to demonstrate knowledge in the wide field of agronomy.

"You look at plants and seeds and you have to identify a plant by what it looks like," Michael Frank, New England FFA competitor, said. "You get a bunch of seeds and you have to identify what they are, as well as identify seeds with disorders."

Agronomy competitors also had to review a soil report and identify how far away the water table was from the soil identified in the report, as well as how much soil was in the given area.

Students competing in the agronomy competition were exposed to the many various ways that science and technology collaborate to grow the world's major food crops.

The final competition saw students compete in the Livestock Evaluation Career Development Event (CDE). Students worked diligently to rank breeding and market classes of beef, sheep and swine and as well as give oral reasons to back up their decisions.

"This year was harder than previous years because they added goats," Brianna Meitzke, Dickinson FFA competitor, said. "I've never judged goats before, so that was a bit of a guessing game."

Students participating in this competition were tasked with making accurate and logical observations of livestock, deciding on the desirable traits in marketing and breeding livestock, and selecting and marketing livestock that will satisfy consumer demands and provide increased economic returns to producers.

Understanding what makes a good market for breeding beef, sheep or swine is valuable knowledge for the decisions every livestock producer has to make. This competition also encouraged students to communicate proficiently, interpret data and rely on skills that translate into other career opportunities.

Saturday's competition was a partnership between DSU and the North Dakota FFA Foundation, which is a 501c3 nonprofit.

For more information about the North Dakota FFA Foundation, visit ndffafoundation.com.

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