SDSU ag programs: Spirit of competition

Farm Forum

South Dakota State University Extension has several agricultural programs of a competitive nature, though they maintain their primary focus of educating youth.

Peter Nielson, director of SDSU Extension’s 4-H Youth Development program, says SDSU is more than supportive of 4-H’s goal of fostering young farmers while allowing them to compete with each other for top honors.

“They support our administrative staff and the extension service,” Nielson says. “We hope to, with our strategic planning for 2018, put more and more emphasis on how 4-H is one of the first classes someone can take at SDSU by looking at recruitment and outreach.”

The 4-H Youth Development program holds several competitive events each year, not counting the major competitive events it hosts at the South Dakota State Fair. There are currently 9,000 members in the program, but Nielson considers the program’s “touch” – its number of active participants – to be 40,000 to 60,000 people across South Dakota.

The most prominent of the program’s events are its annual horse show and shooting sports competition, which one-third of the program’s members compete in.

“In fairness, there’s a lot of competition in the traditional 4-H programs, and that’s why we’ve looked at how we make it more education-based to look at the series of events that happens from ages 5 to 19 so they have a continuum of learning in the program,” Nielson says.

Outside of competitive events, the 4-H Youth Development program, working with the South Dakota 4-H leadership, organize and manage the South Dakota State Fair.

SDSU Extension also hosts six Regional Dairy Judging Schools and a dairy science competition, hosted by the SDSU chapter of Sigma Xi and geared toward graduate students.

According to SDSU, its series of Dairy Judging schools teach young participants how to identify and evaluate cattle based on the Dairy Cow Unified Scorecard, identify breed standards, and gain an increased understanding of cattle through performance and pedigree evaluation. In 2013, 73 youths across South Dakota participated in the Dairy Judging school program.

SDSU graduate and doctoral students competing in the 2013 Sigma Xi contest were judged on written research proposals and follow-up oral presentations. SDSU reports Ishwary Acharya won the 2013 Sigma Xi event with his proposal Maximizing the Use of High Quality Forages in the Rations of High Producing Dairy Cows.