HARRISBURG, Pa. — If you can correctly identify a tableful of feed samples, name a specific sheep breed or describe what SSQA stands for, you might enjoy pitting your knowledge against the 100 teams of high school students who came to the recent Keystone International Livestock Exposition for the annual Stockman’s Contest.
Conducted Oct. 5 during KILE at the Farm Show Complex, the contest drew 50 more students than last year, according to Linda Spahr, dairy and livestock educator based in York, who has organized the contest for the past 20 years.
This year, more than 340 students from about six states entered, vying for both team and individual honors.
There is no central textbook to study, and the pool of information students need to know is vast.
“They need to know feeds, forages, management, current events and quality assurance,” Spahr said. “They can get questions on anything and everything.”
The contest is made up of 12 components, including stations set up in the Farm Show building, which move the teams through the identification portion of the contest.
Here, students work to correctly identify small equipment, feeds, meat and livestock breeds, then they are put to the test with five judging classes of beef, sheep, swine, meats and hay.
The final portion of the contest consists of three quizzes covering current events, management and quality assurance questions.
“They study a little bit of everything,” Spahr said. “Management, for example, should be learned in school classes or 4-H.
“Also, if they’re working with livestock, it’s information they’re working with every day, so it shouldn’t be a real hardship for them,” she said.
Students also read beef, pork and lamb quality-assurance handbooks to get ready for quiz questions, Spahr said.
Additionally, “we direct them to Oklahoma University’s website (http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/) for breed information,” she said. “That’s the key — I don’t send out a study this’ guide.”
Students who compete this year will get the 2012 answer key mailed to them after the contest, so they can check to see how they did and then use that insight to know basics of how to study for next year.
All portions are evenly weighted at 50 points for each class.
Besides team scores, the top five individual point-earners are interviewed by a panel of three individuals with agriculture-based careers to help determine the top individual placings.
Organizations such as the Pennsylvania Livestock Association, South Central Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association and KILE sponsored the contest, awarding money to the top 80 individual placements — almost a third of all entrants — with first place getting $500 and second place $250.
This year, Eric Shoop of Dalmatia, Pa., and a Dauphin County 4-H’er was named Keystone Junior Stockman of the Year. Top team placing went to North Carolina’s 4-H team.
For more results from the contest, see Page B7.