Milk Maid

So what exactly do the 4-H ribbon colors mean?

“Good luck Lyon County 4-Hers! Go get the purple, blue, red, green or whatever color is best at the state fair!”

I recently read that statement on a local resident’s social media page as they were trying to encourage our local 4-Hers to go out and do their best at the state fair.

They did their best – and then some! On several pages of this edition, there are many photos of our local 4-Hers strutting their stuff and showcasing how they went to the state fair and garnished all the ribbon colors!

So what exactly do all the different ribbon colors mean? As a 4-H alumni and 4-H family member, the ribbon colors come pretty second nature to me.

To break it down, here’s a short summary of how the ribbon colors came to be and what they mean. 4-H uses the Danish judging system at county and state fairs.

This means that exhibits are judged against a “standard” rather than against other exhibits.

A purple ribbon, which is the most coveted of the ribbons, means that the exhibit meets superior standards and quality.

A blue ribbon means that the exhibit meets high standards and good quality work is shown.

A red ribbon means average to above average quality work is shown, but improvement is needed in some areas.

A white ribbon signifies below average in quality, and the exhibit does not meet standards.

Thankfully, white ribbons aren’t handed out very often, at least here in Minnesota.

The Danish judging is very different from a contest.

In a contest, there is one “winner” whose exhibit is the best of all those present. In the Danish judging system, there could be any number of purples, blues, reds or whites because one exhibit is not compared to another.

On top of the class/exhibit placings, 4-Hers can win their division by earning a Champion or Reserve.

Those are the “best of the best” exhibits or exhibitors in their category. Take Josh Schuelke’s Alpine doe kid, Passion. First, she received a blue in her class.

Then, she advanced to beat all the other junior Alpine does.

After that, Josh’s goat then competed against all the other junior breed winners for the coveted title of “Best in Show Junior Doe,” which Josh and Passion won!

That means she was the best junior dairy goat at the state fair 4-H show. My sister Brooke and her cow Diva won Reserve Champion Red Holstein Cow Net Merit. What is net merit?

Net merit is exclusive to dairy cattle as it’s a number calculated based on the genetic value. That number is determined by their type (what they look like) and their production (how much milk, fat and protein they produce).

My brother Grady won Reserve Brown Swiss Production, which means his cow Sophie had the second highest milk, protein and butterfat total of all the Brown Swiss cows at the state 4-H show.

What about herdsmanship?

This is the fourth year in a row that Lyon County Dairy has won herdsmanship. It’s a contest based on how neat and presentable the 4-Hers keep the county herd looking during the fair.

In dairy, if you win, you get the coveted spot in the very front of the barn and a big, beautiful championship sign. So what is showmanship?

Two recent Minneota graduates both did very well in showmanship at the state fair. In the showmanship class, 4-Hers are judged on their knowledge and how they show the animal, not on the animal’s type.

Minnesota is very competitive and is flooded with talent, so congratulations Gared and Laura! Hopefully, that helped clear things up on what the ribbon colors mean. I hope you’re as proud of our local 4-Hers as I am!

Brittany Moorse

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