BROOKINGS, SD - The Spink County 4-H Homesite Evaluation team earned the National Champion title and Butte County 4-H Range Team received the Reserve Champion trophy during the 61st Annual National Land & Range Judging Contest held in Oklahoma City, OK.
"The range contest will provide insight into the basic tools that are used in land stewardship, which is the application of ecological principles and historically significant disturbances such as fire and grazing," said Terry Bidwell, Oklahoma State University Extension Range Specialist. "The objectives of the contest are to teach participants some of the principles of ecology including soil/plant relationships, plant/animal relationships, and plant succession as applied to management of the land resource. We have chosen beef cattle and bobwhite quail to demonstrate the concept of habitat evaluation. Both species are ecologically and economically important and their relationship to different stages of plant succession is well known."
Seven hundred high school FFA and 4-H members competed in the contest held May 2-4. Total registration for the event exceeded 1,000 people with coaches, sponsors, officials and group leaders in addition to the contestants. South Dakota fielded seven Land/Homesite teams and five Range teams competing in 4-H or FFA Divisions. Team travel expenses are supported in part the 4-H Livestock Industry Fund and South Dakota section of the Society for Range Management.
The FFA and 4-H participating teams qualified for the national event by placing among the top five teams at contests held in their home states. The first two days of the three-day event offered contestants opportunities to visit nearby practice sites to get acquainted with Oklahoma soils and plants with information available from soil experts. The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an unfair advantage.
Contestants and coaches gather on contest morning to find out the official contest location. They then travel to the site, with a police escort, in a caravan of more than 100 vehicles spanning several miles.
The event wraps up with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. National championship trophies were awarded to team and individual winners in each category of the competition including land judging, range judging, and homesite evaluation. Each category included FFA and 4-H.
In the Homesite division, the Spink County 4-H Team took home top honors. The Spink County 4-H team was coached by 4-H volunteer, Lance Howe and Hitchcock-Tulare FFA Advisor, Mike Brink. Individual placing were as follows: Landon Bushong, 4th; Nicole Hamilton, 6th; Nic Hoelzel, 9th; and Jordanne Howe 35th.
"A home is a major investment for most people. Individual families and communities can avoid construction and maintenance problems if a study of soil conditions is made before construction begins. Soil information can be used to predict potential problems associated with planned or existing homesites," said Jim Stiegler, Oklahoma State University, Extension Soil Scientist of the value of the Homesite competition.
In the Range Judging 4-H Competition, the Butte County 4-H team earned the Reserve National Champion title. Individual placing were as follows: Coral Starr, 3rd; Makayla Heisler, 4th; Kristen Dunn, 6th; and Jonny Champion, 5th.
The Newell FFA Range Judging Team placed 12th in the nation and above other South Dakota FFA teams. Team members included Brian Champion, 21st; and Ethan Eddington, 27th. The team also included Alisha Sheeler and Kim Eichler. The teams were coached by Jodie Severson, Newell FFA Advisor, with Kyle Schell, SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist and Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist providing technical support to all range teams.
"These opportunities to introduce students to the study of Range Management provide students with skills and understanding of a valuable natural resource that drives the economies of Rural America in the West," said Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist. "Many students will pursue careers which require the management of range resources.
In the Land Judging competition Spink County 4-H also placed sixth among some strong competition with Landon Bushong placing 2nd individually. In the FFA ranks, Newell FFA placed 22nd out of a field of 95 teams, topping all other South Dakota FFA Teams. 4-H Volunteer and USDA-NRCS Soil Scientist, Lance Howe, assisted in coaching all of the South Dakota 4-H and FFA teams in both the Homesite and Land Evaluation divisions.
In addition to practicing and competition, 4-H and FFA Teams were able to take in some of the local attractions Oklahoma had to offer. Contestants toured the Braum's Dairy and processing facilities where they milk more than 12,000 cows twice a day and process all the milk to be delivered to 270 stores within 300 miles of their farm.
Other tours included the Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Lazy E Stud Ranch, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Some other activities included go-carts, watching a few horse races at Remington Park, and eating at the infamous Braum's. Jack Link's Jerky supplied more than 40 pounds of jerky to be enjoyed by the 12 South Dakota teams competing in the National Land and Range Competition.
- SDSU Extension