Dairy Judging

By: Casey Urbanek

Across the country, many youth compete in dairy judging competitions. This provides an educational experiance for youth interested in the dairy industry. Knowledge of ideal dairy traits also plays a role in building a profitable herd. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln states that "The primary reason to raise dairy cows is to produce milk. For dairy cows to be highly profitable for the owners, they must have desirable traits that involve proper function"(1). When dairy judging, the judge must know how to linear judge, place a class of even-aged animals, give reasons, and how the traits of the animal are weighted.  

Linear Judging

Linear Judging helps classify cows without comparing specific animals to each other. Linear Judging gives a number to each trait depending on how ideal the trait of the animal is(Holstien Foundation 32). The ideal characteristic of a trait has a value, and the animal recieves a score on how closely they exhibit this characteristic to ideal. Although traits are valued on a 1 to 50 scale, a score of 50 may not always equal the ideal trait(Holstein Foundation 32). Since a score of 50 represents the opposite characteristic of a score of 1, an ideal trait may score a 25 because producers desire a happy medium between the two extremes. The Holstein Foundation states that "linear evaluators numerically score each category on a scale from 1 to 100, based on how similar they are to a True Type Model cow"(32). The judge then considers the individual scores to give the animal a final, overall score.

Placing a Class

Dairy judging competitors and professional judges place classes of even-aged dairy cattle. In a competition, competitors place four animals in order from best animal to the least desirable animal. When placing animals, the judge compares the traits between the animals and considers the weighted categories to decide which animal best fits the definition of a "True Type Model cow." The Holstein Foundation states that when judging a class, the judge looks for an easy top or bottom cow or pairs cattle together. The weighted category breakdowns are used to finalize which animal is more desirable overall(19). Judges consider these factors when placing a class of animals.

Category Breakdown

The Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (PDCA) developed a Dairy Cow Unified Scorecard that breaks the areas of a cow into weighted categories. Each category gets a weighted percent when developing a final score. The PDCA scorecard defines five major categories-frame, udder, feet and legs, dairy character, and body capacity(Stamschror 1). Multiple traits under each of these categories help the judge conclude how well the cow exhibits each of these categories. The frame accounts for 15% of the final score, the udder accounts for 40%, dairy character accounts for 20%, body capacity 10%, and feet and legs account for 15% of the final score(Stamschror 2).

Giving Reasons

Dairy judging competitors and professional judges give reasons to inform others on why they placed the class as they did. When giving reasons, judges follow a standard format to give proper reasons. The judge starts by giving their placing of the class. Then, the judge gives how each animal excels over the animal placed below it. After explaining how the top animal excels, the judge admits a trait that the lower placing animal exhibits greater than the higher placing animal. The judge then gives multiple reasons on why the placed the final animal on the bottom of the class.

Purpose of Dairy Judging

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln states that "The primary reason to raise dairy cows is to produce milk. For dairy cows to be highly profitable for the owners, they must have desirable traits that involve proper function"(1). Because of this, dairy judging is important when farmers are choosing cattle to add to their herd. Dairy farmers want their herd to bring in high profits, and superior animals make this task attainable. Also, dairy judging can help enhance the success of a youth dairy project by helping an individual choose a superior animal(University of Nebraska-Lincoln 1).


In dairy judging competitions, cuts are assigned to each class. The cuts tell how difficult it was to place the class(Holstein Foundation 31). Each placing in the class gets assigned a number, so in a class of four animals, three cuts are assigned. The closer-paired animals, making them more difficult to decide which animal goes on top, have higher cuts. A cut tells how many points to take off of the competitor's score if they have the placing incorrect.

Works Cited