Milbank FFA Range Team places in national range event

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The Milbank FFA Range team participated in the 63rd Annual National Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City on May 1, 2014, and placed 10th in the national event. The Milbank FFA Range team members are Kiera Leddy, Kadon Leddy, Sean Pinkert, Brock Tillma and alternate Sharon Folk. The team was coached by Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist, Krecia Leddy and Milbank FFA Advisor, Jerry Janisch.

The Milbank FFA Range group tested their individual and team skills against other range judging teams from across the mid-west United States. In the range part of the competition, students not only learn how to identify plants, but must also be able to provide specific plant characteristics, such as growth habit and uses for wildlife and livestock. Three additional sites are setup to teach students how to evaluate plant community composition and conduct evaluations for quail habitat and for beef production. Students are taught how to plan management practices based on different objectives.

The first three days before the event, the Milbank teams and the other South Dakota teams worked on plant identification and site integrity. Many of the plants presented in the National Range event are not found in South Dakota, so the students had to spend most of their time on the identification of the plants and their growth habitat. Students were required to identify the plants with little more than 1/2” of the given plant exposed. The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an unfair advantage. Contestants and coaches gather on contest morning to find out the official contest location. They then travel to the site, with a police escort, in a caravan of over 100 vehicles spanning several miles.

The Range event ended Thursday night with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. National championship trophies were awarded to team and individual winners in each category of the competition including land judging, range judging, and homesite evaluation. Each category included FFA and 4-H.

According to Dave Ollila, “These opportunities to expose students to the study of Range Management provide students with skills and understanding of a valuable natural resource that drives the economies of Rural America in the West. Many students will pursue careers which require the knowledge of habitat and range resource management.”

In addition to practicing and competing in the range judging contest, the Milbank FFA members were able to take in some of the local attractions Oklahoma had to offer. They were able to tour the Braum’s Dairy and processing facilities where they milk more than 12,000 cows twice a day and process all the milk to be delivered to 270 stores within 300 miles of their farm. Other tours included the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Lazy E Horse Ranch and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Additional activities included shopping at Bass Pro Shops, eating at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, eating at the infamous Braum’s! and the Cattleman. Jack Link’s Jerky supplied more than 40 pounds of jerky to be enjoyed by the South Dakota teams competing in the National Land and Range Competition.