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Area 4-H, FFA students participate in annual DSU Roughrider Judging contest

On Saturday, students from across southwestern North Dakota and beyond gathered at Dickinson State University for the annual Roughrider Judging contest.

Southwestern Future Farmers of America students are pictured judging types of plants on pieces of paper.
Southwestern Future Farmers of America students identify seeds, plants, diseases, damages and other agronomic factors during the Roughrider Judging annual event Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Dickinson State Univeristy.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — More than 200 Future Farmers of America and 4-H contestants competed in Saturday’s annual Roughrider Judging event at Dickinson State University, cultivating their agricultural knowledge in a competitive format while harnessing their communication and networking skills.

Hosted by the DSU Ag Club, 202 registrants — 71 4-H and 131 FFA — came out to participate in a series of contests from livestock, agronomy and ag sales. This event comes as the first contest in the area that kicks off the six-week judging season in North Dakota. Both FFA and 4-H students will have their state contests in March.

A young girl judges beef cattle.
A contestant participates in the livestock judging portion Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, during the Roughrider Judging event hosted by Dickinson State University's Ag Club.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
A goat is pictured.
A yearling goat sticks its head out of the gate during the Roughrider Judging event Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Dickinson State University.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
A yearling Black Angus bull is pictured.
A yearling Black Angus bull looks on during the Roughrider Judging event Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Dickinson State University.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

“In general, the contests are geared toward increasing their discipline specific knowledge in a competitive format. However, it also has major impacts on their communication skills, self-confidence, team building and bonding experience and social networking,” DSU Agriculture and Technical Studies Department Chair Chip Poland said, adding, “Many of our best agriculture students start their journey in agriculture in these events.”

Although, 2021 was a “tough year” due to the coronavirus pandemic, Poland noted that this year’s Roughrider Judging had a “normal size” of participants, coming from southwestern North Dakota and eastern Montana. There were 20 different entities registered ranging from Adams County, Beach, Dickinson, Grant County, Killdeer, New Salem, South Heart to Watford City.

“We had a change in venue this year with a scheduling with the BAC (Biesiot Activities Center) and thus moved back to a format that is more dispersed across campus,” Poland said. “That change provided a few hiccups, but for the most part things went well.”

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Two students work on a problem.
Addalee Kerr, left, works on identifying plants as Dickinson State University Ag Club representative Kaylee Obrigewitch lends a hand during the Roughrider Judging event Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

During the 2022 Roughrider Judging event, there were 118 contestants in livestock, 40 in agronomy and 44 in ag sales. For FFA and 4-H contestants, livestock judging includes providing a placing score on seven classes — beef (two), swine (two), sheep (two) and goat (one) — and giving reasons for three of those classes (one each for beef, sheep and swine). Poland noted that there is often an accompanying test for older contestants. This evaluation helps students learn to evaluate beef cattle, sheep and swing and defend their decisions.

“Livestock judging is (a) complex process requiring a physical assessment of the physical attributes of a set of animals compared to an ideal and then contestants are asked to rank them from best to worst with in some cases an oral reasoning for why you placed them as such,” Poland said.

Agronomy doesn’t require a formal presentation, but allows contestants “to build and improve skills in agronomic sciences.” FFA and junior 4-H contestants complete a 50-questions written exam as well as identify seeds, plants, diseases, damages and other agronomic factors. Contestants then evaluate market and seed grain classes and grade grain, Poland added.

For the ag sales portion of the event, which includes only FFA contestants, students demonstrate the professional sales process, such as customer relations, advertising and promotion and product display. This also includes a 50-question general knowledge exam, presenting a product summary and making a sales presentation for an agricultural product.

“Teams also work cooperatively to strategize a marketing campaign for an agricultural product and present this campaign to a panel of judges,” Poland added.

Future Farmers of America are pictured taking an exam.
Future Farmers of America from southwestern North Dakota and eastern Montana work on completing a written exam during the Roughrider Judging event Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Dickinson State University.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
A Future Farmers of America student identifies plants on an exam.
A Future Farmers of America student identifies plants on an exam Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Dickinson State University during the Roughrider Judging event.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
Roughrider Judging 7
From left, Katelyn Fritz, McKell Meidinger, Carter Fong, Kaylee Obrigewitch and Ian Thompson at the Roughrider Judging event Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Dickinson State University. Fong, the executive director of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, was present briefly at the beginning of the day as the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored the award ribbons for Roughrider Judging.
Contributed / Annika Plummer

DSU conducts this contest as a way “to develop and hone leadership skills,” Poland said, explaining that the college students do all of the work and it is a learning process for them.

“They realize there is a huge difference between being a very good judger (as many of them were prior to coming to DSU) and putting on a quality contest,” he said. “Focusing on group dynamics, developing organizational skills (agendas, worklists, priorities, deadlines), and learning to delegate responsibilities and be accountable are all reinforced as they work together to put on this event.”

Roughrider Judging is just one of the events the DSU Ag Club hosts. On April 21, the group will host the DSU Kids Day on the Farm on campus. On Dec. 7, the DSU Ag Club will present the District 8 FFA Leadership Conference.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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