Superior Young Dairy Producers photo

Feeding a growing population requires youth who understand all aspects of the agricultural livestock industry. The 4-H Superior Young Producer Award scholarship program, in its 24th year in Illinois, rewards youth who have extended their education beyond the show ring, mastering knowledge in animal breeding, health and disease management, animal nutrition, food safety, and herd management.

More than $500,000 in college scholarships have been awarded to winners of the annual contest since its beginning. The inaugural contest was created by retired University of Illinois Extension dairy specialist David Fischer. Fischer retired in 2010, but continues to support 4-H as program coordinator of the dairy program. Fischer hosted his final superior young dairy producer contest Aug. 17 during the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.

“This contest complements 4-H work by inspiring personal growth and career development in animal science,” said Dan Jennings, Extension 4-H animal science educator. Three separate contests are held during the state fair, with 80 4-H members competing for $15,000 in scholarships prizes in 2019.

Prairie Farms Dairy provided financial support for the dairy contest, and the CME Group provided financial support for the beef, sheep, and swine contest through gifts to the Illinois 4-H Foundation. In addition, the Land of Lincoln Purebred Livestock Breeders Association and the Illinois State Fair provided trophies and awards for the contest.

Each contest features three divisions to determine the scholarship winners.

Horse Scholarships

Ruthie Ruhl of Logan County placed first in the horse contest held July 24 in Springfield and received one of three $1,000 scholarships. “I have had an obsession with horse my entire life,” Ruthie says, “and I look forward to an equine career.”

Desiree Reid of Mercer County and Audrey DeRossett of Union County also received scholarships. “A fundamental element of 4-H is the importance of knowledge,” said DeRossett. The teen said she will apply her scholarship to tuition at Emory University where she studies political science toward a law degree.

Youth compete in three divisions: written test, live judging, and a skillathon phase. In the test division, Ruhl placed first, Reid placed second, and DeRossett placed third. Tea Thomas of Whiteside County placed first in the live judging division, followed by Hannah Maher of Knox County in second and Amanda Hall of Shelby County in third. In the skillathon division, Ruhl placed first, DeRossett placed second, and Reid placed third.

Debra Hagstrom, Illinois Extension equine specialist, coordinates the contest with assistance from the Illinois State Fair junior horse show superintendents, Judy Kruse and Ron Haack.

Beef, Swine, and Sheep Scholarships

Youth with project work in the beef, sheep, and swine competed Aug. 7 for nine scholarships. The winners include Breanna Knittel, Greenfield; Jett Vickery, Taylorville; Lauren Mohr, Carlock; Travis Wilke, Olney; Paige VanDyke, Louisville; Sara Timm, Iuka; Kennedy Gallaher, Mount Sterling; Kira Sayre, Arenzville; and Case Hennenfent, Gilson.

Divisional winners included Knittel, Tanner Mickey, and Lizzie Schaffer for the management test; Knittel, Kate Henkel, and VanDyke for the skillathon division; and Travis Wilke, Timm, and Jett Vickery in the marketing division.

Dairy Scholarships

The Superior Young Dairy Producer contest was held Aug. 17 in Springfield. Scholarship winners in the dairy division include Briley Lenkaitis of Saline County, Zachary Paul of Madison County, and Ainsley Kratochvil of Livingston County.

Lenkaitis placed in the top three in the skillathon and judging divisions, as well. Paul took high honors in the dairy management test. Kratochvil was a high finisher in the judging division.

Other division winners included Shana Lueking and Brady Heinzmann, both of Clinton County, in the test division; Payton Erbsen of Carroll County and Riley Walden of Shelby County in the skillathon division; and Gage Wendling of Effingham County in the judging division.

Top Photo: Illinois 4-H presented three $1,000 scholarships to youth competing in the 2019 Superior Young Dairy Producer Award contest held Aug. 17 in Springfield. Prairie Farms Dairy provides financial support for the scholarships through gifts to the Illinois 4-H Foundation. Pictured, left to right, is David Fischer, U of I Extension dairy coordinator; Zachary Paul of Worden; Ainsley Kratochvil of Fairbury; and Briley Lenkaitis of Eldorado; Tony Graves, Prairie Farms Dairy board president; and Lisa Diaz, Extension assistant dean and director of Illinois 4-H.

Superior Young Horse Producers photo

Scholarship Winners: Illinois 4-H presented three $1,000 scholarships to youth competing in the 2019 Superior Young Horse Producer Award contest held July 24 in Springfield. In addition, the top three winners in each phase win plaques. Pictured, left to right, are Amanda Hall, Desiree Reid, Hannah Maher, and Ruthie Ruhle. Reid and Ruhle received scholarships. The third scholarship recipient was Audrey DeRossett who was not present for the photo. Financial support for the scholarships is provided by the Illinois 4-H Foundation.