This Holstein dairy heifer stands at the top of its class, which was critiqued for AgriNews by dairy judge David Byers, because of its top size length.
This Holstein dairy heifer stands at the top of its class, which was critiqued for AgriNews by dairy judge David Byers, because of its top size length.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When evaluating cattle, the first important aspect to determine is whether it is a dairy heifer or a market animal.

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 dairy shows.

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 rear.