WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When evaluating cattle, the first
important aspect to determine is whether it is a dairy heifer or a market
David Byers, a livestock judge who raises dairy cattle in
West Lafayette, said dairy judges look for heifers that aren’t especially
muscular and have a thick rear end, unlike in beef cattle, where thicker is
better. In the dairy species, he explained, it is considered excess fat.
Over the years, Byers added, he has done his share of
judging dairy shows at county fairs throughout the state.
“I enjoy it. I mainly like really being able to work with
the kids,” he said.
On top of helping 4-H members by serving as a livestock
judge and sharing tips with them on how they can improve their animals, he
started the Tippecanoe County 4-H lease program on his operation in 1980.
Hundreds of 4-H members who live in the inner city or don’t
have a place to keep a dairy heifer have leased one from him, and it is their
responsibility to come out to his farm at least once a week until they are done
showing it at the county fair, Byers said.
Three individuals who were a part of the lease program when
they were in 4-H now are licensed veterinarians, and one is a professional dog
groomer, he added.
To highlight other areas where dairy heifers differ from
beef cattle, Byers assembled a class of Holstein heifers for AgriNews, which he evaluated while
giving tips that 4-H members can use as they get ready for their county fair
He mentioned that one of the things he looks at first when
judging a class of dairy heifers is the animal’s legs and feet as it moves
around the show ring.
“A dairy animal has to walk to the parlor twice a day,” he
said, adding that another essential quality that he and other judges look for in
a dairy heifer is whether it has an air of “dairyness,” along with a lot of
depth to their rear rib.
That is why he started the AgriNews class off with the biggest
Holstein heifer because of its top size length and scale.
Taking second was the heifer that had the most “dairyness”
in the class, Byers noted, but was sharp down its top line.
Coming in third in the class was the littlest dairy heifer,
in terms of size, because it had too much excess weight and was too thick in the