After earning three first-place finishes at the regional, state and national competitions, the path to an international title in Europe next summer looks much clearer for one group of Green County 4-H’ers.
With just a one-point margin, Wisconsin inched past neighbors Minnesota to take home top honors in the National 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest for the second year in a row on Monday, October 1 at the World Dairy Expo in Madison. Team members Clayton and Cole Mahlkuch and Brian and Rachel McCullough finished the contest as the top team overall, keeping the national title at home here in the Badger State for another year.
“Winning the National 4-H Dairy Judging Contest is a terrific and well-deserved accomplishment for this team. These four youth members are passionate about dairy cattle evaluation, and have spent many years attending weekly practices every spring and summer, learning about, practicing and receiving feedback on dairy judging,” says Ellen Andrews, Green County 4-H Youth Development Educator.
Led by coach Mike Marean, a 28-year veteran of the Green County 4-H program, the pair of sibling duos participated in weekly practices starting in April that led up to the regional competition at Area Animal Science Day, picking up their first win in Darlington on June 29 to pave the road to victory. As the winner of the regional competition, the Green County senior team advanced to the state competition, held on July 16 in Black River Falls – and won there, too.
The next stop in their impressive journey was the national competition, held at World Dairy Expo in Madison on October 1, where Brian McCullough led the team as second high individual in the contest, was fourth in oral reasons and fourth in the placings-only contest. Rachel McCullough finished in 12th place and was second-place in the placings-only contest. Cole Mahlkuch placed 22nd and earned All-American honors along with Brian and Rachel McCullough.
“It’s exciting to see local youth achieve such an amazing level of success, as a result of years of dedication in an educational opportunity that brings together both content knowledge and life skill development in such a powerful way,” adds Andrews.
The honor is only the latest addition to an illustrious list of accolades Wisconsin has garnered. This year’s dairy judging team marks the 12th team from Wisconsin to win the national contest since its nearly-century old inception in 1919.
“It is not every day you get the opportunity to work with kids that have the desire, drive and talent these kids have collectively shown,” says Marean, who has known the Mahlkuch and McCullough families since he was a kid growing up in the Green County 4-H program himself. He says the closeness the team members have created is truly unique and special. “To have 4 kids all from the same school, the same 4-H club and live less than 5 miles apart from each other win a prestigious contest is special for the Juda community. The national 4-H contest is the best of the best from around the United States. To compete and win on that stage, with the best talent from each state, is something special.”
The national champions won’t rest on their laurels – Clayton, Cole, Brian, Rachel and Mike will be heading off to Europe to compete at the International 4-H Dairy Judging contest in Edinburgh, Scotland in June of 2019.
Ellen says the team, and their parents and coaches, are honored and humbled by the tremendous outpour of support and congratulations that they have received, both from in Green County, as well as members of the agricultural community across the state, adding, “We are fortunately in Green County 4-H to have a strong volunteer base for supporting our 4-H Dairy Judging program, led entirely by Green County 4-H alumni who are committed to giving back to the program, and post notably by our lead coach Mike Marean.”