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Sumner-Fredericksburg to compete in agronomy and dairy judging at National FFA Convention

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 11/14/2013 8:08 AM

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SUMNER — Sumner-Fredericksburg FFAers spend weekends and other free moments studying agronomy and dairy cattle topics.

The chapter, based in Sumner, will compete for the first time in Career Development Events at the National FFA Convention Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Louisville.

The chapter's Agronomy Team consisting of Bridget Bouska, Isiah Brandt, Kristen Reno and Lucas Wendland finished first at the state contest held in June. Reno placed second; Bouska, third; Brandt, fourth; and Wendland, fifth, overall individual.

The Dairy Cattle Judging Team comprised of Nathan Arthur, Tessa Meyer, Lindsey Meyer and Jessica Wurzer won the state competition in West Union held in September. Arthur placed second, Tessa Meyer was fourth, Wurzer, fifth, and Lindsey Meyer, sixth.

"We were reserve champion the year before in agronomy, and we'd finished second in dairy cattle for several years by less than 10 points, so we were pumped to win," said Meghan Bond, agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor. "We've been working very hard to prepare. We're going to represent Iowa to the best of our ability."

Wurzer, a senior, works on her family's dairy farm and for a purebred Jersey farm, and shows Holsteins and Jerseys. Arthur, a sophomore, works on his family's dairy farm and is building his own herd. He shows cattle and is in 4-H dairy judging. He'll return to Louisville in November to compete on Iowa's 4-H team.

Tessa Meyer, a junior, is not from a dairy farm but has learned a lot about dairy preparing for the state and national contests. All the studying is helping in her animal science class. Sophomore Lindsey Meyer works on her uncle's dairy farm and shows cattle.

Isiah Brandt, a junior, said it helps in preparing for the agronomy contest that he's involved on his family's farm.

Scheduling practices is challenging. Bouska is a student at Iowa State University and Wendland at Wartburg College.

"We went to Hawkeye Community College on a Saturday and met with Mr. (Dave) Grunklee and he taught us how to judge soils, analyze monoliths and grade red wheat," Brandt said.

The teams have created thousands of flash cards on their iPads to review whenever they have a free moment. Brandt and Reno work on math problems on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before school. They have to know how to calculate fertility and seeding rates for various crops.

"There's a lot of math involved," Brandt said.

The Iowa agronomy competition prepares students for about 30 percent of what they will encounter in the national competition, Bond said.

"They have to know about wheat, barley, cotton, peanuts, lettuce, melons, a lot of crops that we don't grow on a large scale in Iowa," Bond said.

The dairy judging team has visited Brown Swiss, Holstein, Jersey and Ayrshire breeders.

"We place a class of cows, and the farmers give us a lot of tips," Wurzer said.

Friday, the dairy team will talk to 85 Waterloo third graders who are visiting their teacher's farm near Readlyn. They will show the youngsters a dairy cow, talk about what a cow eats, how much water it drinks and how much milk it produces. Most of the Waterloo students never have been on a farm.

When Arthur showed dairy cattle at the recent National Cattle Congress, the rest of the team placed classes from the stands comparing their results to the judges' placings.

Bond will have 16 students at the National FFA Convention. The eight competitors will travel in two vehicles so that they can practice on the way. A bus will bring seven more students, and one student will come with her family. Two are receiving American FFA Degrees. Madison Kirchmann, a student at Northeast Iowa Community College, raised beef, goats and chickens and worked on a sheep farm for her Supervised Agricultural Experience. Luke Fober, an ISU student, worked on his family's dairy farm.

To find out more about this year's National FFA Convention visit ffa.org/events/conventionandexpo/Pages/default.aspx.