Day 3: Impacting future dairy leaders

12 days of Christmas… with a twist.

Day 3:  Youth education events in and beyond the dairy showring are the mission of the All-American Dairy Foundation. This story shares the lesser-known aspects of a great dairy show and the foundation that seeks to build the financial support to keep them going.



By Sherry Bunting Nov. 20, 2015 Farmshine

Ask how the All-American Dairy Foundation (AADF) impacts the next generation in the dairy industry, and the answer is wrapped up in youth education events at the All-American Dairy Show, which extend beyond the showring for over 2000 young people.

AADF raises funds through contributor-membership by individuals and companies, as well as other fundraising efforts throughout the year including a new matching funds challenge that is underway. The goal is to ensure the future of youth education events and scholarships at the annual All-American Dairy Show. This is critical because state sponsorship of the show and the economic revenue it generates to the Capitol Region each September, only covers a fraction of the costs and it cannot be counted on for the future in these economic times.

Thus, the All-American Dairy Foundation, a 501( c ) 3 applies for grants for its support of youth education activities at the show, but largely relies on the good will of companies and individuals to build its trust fund to insure these opportunities continue in the future.


Whether participating youth go on to their own dairy farms or to manage large herds for others — or to work as consultants, nutritionists, veterinarians and other allied industry careers — the ribbons and awards of their days in Harrisburg each September are just the surface of what sticks as they enter career paths on and off the farm. It is the cow sense, determination, teamwork, competitive drive, communication, decision-making and people skills that follow them into a range of dairy- and ag-related careers.

Youth opportunities at the All-American help the next generation forge lifelong friendships, learn from some of the best cowmen and women of the time, and network with potential mentors among dairy producers and allied industry representatives in ways that help them see the possibilities for their own futures.

These opportunities establish a network of relationships for the next generation of dairymen and women, advance student work ethics and teach students not only the nuts and bolts of dairying, but also the intangibles that are so important to their futures and the future of the dairy industry.


Of the over 2000 youth who participate each September at the All-American Dairy Show, two-thirds participate in the competitions beyond the showring. The Invitational Youth Dairy Cattle Judging Contest draws teams from dozens of universities in multiple states and as far away as California at the collegiate level, as well as another set of teams and states represented at the 4-H and FFA Judging Forum.

In alternating years, a dairy challenge is held for show youth, and their care of their animals is on display through Showmanship and Fitting competitions aside from the Premier National Junior Show’s breed competitions.


A key competition during All-American Dairy Show week in Harrisburg is the Junior Dairy Management Contest. This contest is unique among all the major youth shows. It has a long history at the All-American, and the number of participants has grown from 60 students as recently as two years ago to over 100 in 2015.

“The Junior Dairy Management contest gives youth a chance to use their knowledge in the dairy industry to compete while also learning more about it,” says Carl Brown of F.M. Brown Sons, Birdsboro, Pa. Brown previously chaired the contest for 27 years.

Many of these individuals go back to the home dairy farm or into related careers such as dairy extension, agriculture law, nutrition consulting, or veterinary medicine. The competition also includes a careers seminar, featuring representatives from allied industries, who interact with the young people about their interests and aspirations.

“This contest brings out the more practical-oriented students,” Brown explains. “I love Dairy Bowl competitions, but the Dairy Management contest at the All-American Dairy Show is more than memorization and knowledge. It is hands-on. It’s as real as it gets in the context of a competition.”

The annual competition consists of a judging component with descriptive type classes, benchmarks in dairy management, tools to evaluate milking management, as well as evaluating feed and nutrient management and dairy records management.

AA-2722wSpecifically, students are judged in seven categories: cattle selection, linear type appraisal, business management, feed and nutrient management, meats and quality assurance, calf management, and DHI records and benchmarks. They receive an overall score as teams and individuals. Part of what they do is to evaluate feedstuffs and their role in dairy rations, milk samples in evaluating milk quality and udder health, reproduction anatomy, animal health and care via dairy records, and even the economically important beef-side of the dairy cow at the end of her productive life reflecting proper handling and proper administration of treatments and withdrawal times.

“This event is one more avenue of learning about the dairy industry and being prepared with information they will need to know to be a part of it,” says Brown.

Throughout All-American Dairy Show week, these and other youth education activities require students to use their knowledge of dairy cows and dairy herd management as well as to hone their communication and decision-making skills to develop the confidence to become quality spokespersons for the industry, no matter what career path they ultimately choose.

At a time when the dairy industry in the U.S. seeks to attract skilled young people, the commercial side of the industry is just beginning to realize the intrinsic connection it has to what youth experience during these competitions inside and outside the showring at the All-American Dairy Show.

Safeguarding and building this is the AADF mission through its financial support.

What the next generation learns at the All-American Dairy Show can “translate to whatever you do in life,” observes Jeremy Daubert, who participated as a youth and today serves as a Virginia Tech dairy extension agent in the Shenandoah Valley. “I feel strongly what is missing most on many commercial dairies is this type of learning that the kids develop showing and judging and interacting with animals and people and practicing their ability to observe and work with cows, to communicate effectively, to make quick, informed decisions and be able to back them up, and the ability to self-evaluate to improve their future results.

“What commercial dairy or allied industry doesn’t want employees and managers with these skills?” he asks, even as his own children are growing into the age groups of participation.

These are the types of experiences the AADF underpins and why the Foundation relies on the good will of companies and individuals to keep funding going for its mission.

“These events are opportunities for our future dairy leaders and managers to not only hone important animal health and husbandry skills, but also develop confident decision-making and valuable interpersonal and leadership skills as they compete for awards, knowledge, self-improvement, and the opportunity to earn scholarships,” says AADF Executive Director Bob Heilman. “Funds donated through our various campaigns enable the Foundation to continue its support of these opportunities for youth to develop the skills they will need in dairy and business in the future.”

To learn more about how to support the AADF mission, contact Bob Heilman at 804-240-1539 or bob_heilman@comcast.netor visit and follow the All-American Dairy Foundation on Facebook. Donations and correspondence can be mailed to AADF, P.O. Box 11211, Henrico, VA 23230.







The 4-H and FFA Dairy Cattle Judging Forum is another competition beyond the showring that is drawing more 4-H and FFA teams to Harrisburg each September during the All-American Dairy Show. Photo by Sherry Bunting



Another aspect of the Junior Dairy Management Contest at the All-American is evaluating milk samples and dairy records management with a focus on milk quality and udder health. Photo by Sherry Bunting



The Junior Dairy Management Contest at the All-American Dairy Show each September includes Beef Quality Assurance of the beef-side of the dairy cow for quality and food safety that reflect proper care and handling. Photo by Sherry Bunting


AA-2728 and/or AA8309 and/or AA-31

Feedstuffs, nutrition and nutrient management is just one aspect of the Junior Dairy Management Contest. The five top scoring contestants from all FFA and 4-H teams are then interviewed by a panel of judges, who evaluated their oral answers to three dairy industry related questions as they vie for scholarships. Photo by Sherry Bunting



Dr. Carl Brown works with a group of students during the forage and feedstuffs portion of the Junior Dairy Management Contest at the All-American Dairy Show in 2013. He chaired the contest for 27 years and still helps out each September. Photo by Sherry Bunting