Pro Judging Tips: Q&A with Dairy Judging Coach Bland Baird, Taylorsville, KY


February is iCEV Judging Month! In honor of iCEV Dairy Judging Week, Bland Baird, Spencer County FFA Advisor, shares insights and tips on coaching dairy judging.


Why do you feel participating on a judging team is so important for students? How does it bring students success in the future?

Participating in any Career Development Event (CDE), including Dairy, is an important part of our agriscience program. All 300-plus members of our FFA Chapter participate in a different CDE each year. Judging teams help students with their decision-making skills, work ethic, and improve their knowledge of this Career Development area. All of the students who have been a member of our six national winning dairy teams have went on to complete college degrees in a number of agriculture-related or science-related areas. We have past team members who are teachers, pharmacists, doctors, attorneys, dentists, and college professors in addition to dairy farmers.

What are the important qualities of a judging team member?

A successful judging team member is goal-oriented, self-disciplined, dedicated and intelligent. A successful team member doesn’t need to have a dairy background. In fact, none of the team members of our past two national champion teams came from a dairy background. In fact, none even grew up on farms. They did have a love of agriculture and as a result of their participation, several are pursuing college degrees in related fields.


How do you prepare your students before each event?

General workouts: We utilize all of the iCEV videos. As we are in an area of very few dairy farms, it would be impossible to have a “trained” team without the videos.

Practice contests:  We attend shows and fairs, field days and participate in university sponsored dairy events.

Night before a contest: We usually review test questions and the team activity.


How do you prepare students to give oral reasons?

We use handouts I have developed and CEV Videos.


What advice do you give to struggling students?

To set goals and to not give up. A few years ago, I had a freshman who entered his first contest and placed last. He almost gave up on dairy judging. Three years later he was the fifth highest scoring individual in the nation. In other words, keep working and never give up.


What are some common challenges a judging team can face and how do you help your students overcome those challenges?

Probably the biggest challenge is working around students' busy schedules. Successful students are not only good at judging, but are also usually top students and members of a number of organizations. Sometimes their schedules are overloaded.