News State Champs Prepare for National Dairy Quiz Bowl 

State Champs Prepare for National Dairy Quiz Bowl 

State Champs Prepare for National Dairy Quiz Bowl 
July 2, 2024 |

By Tanner Hood

Standing in the milking parlor and feed barn at DarLin Farms in Chambers County, students from Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) passed around feed and other supplies. The grit of corn and soybean hulls helped students better understand the process of raising cattle and producing milk.

The hands-on experience was vital for the newly minted Alabama 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl state champions, said teacher and team adviser Kalie Mitchell. 

“We carried three teams from the Alabama School for the Blind (ASB, a school within AIDB) to the state 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl competition last year,” Mitchell said. “When this opportunity came around, I told my students I wanted a team from each of my ag classes.”

The four who volunteered for the 10th grade team were Abby Theiss, Brandee Long, Shymiriya Broadnax and Theo Zieglschmid-Sylvester. 

“The state competition was the team’s first time experiencing dairy cows because we don’t have them at the school farm,” Mitchell said. “They were learning from a book or online.”

Alabama School for the Blind students relied on senses like touch when preparing for the national Dairy Quiz Bowl during a field trip to DarLin Farms. Theo Zieglschmid-Sylvester, left, felt the rubber lining of a milker held by Chambers County Young Farmer Gavin Rankins.

Winning the state competition in October automatically qualified the team for the North American 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl competition in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 8-9. 

“What I love about this competition is the playing field is leveled for our students,” Mitchell said. “They can study just like every other student as long as the manual is translated and transcribed into Braille.” 

Despite busy lives and unexpected challenges, the four students are working hard to prepare for the national competition. 

“A lot of this they have to prepare for in their own time,” Mitchell said. “I think they do a really good job of balancing other responsibilities, like caring for show chickens and gardening, and putting the effort into quiz bowl. They come together and study in the dorms, and they’re doing this of their own accord.”

Zieglschmid-Sylvester said studying has been invaluable. 

“I didn’t know much before starting our studies,” Zieglschmid-Sylvester said. “I knew the basics, like cows produce milk. I’ve learned a lot. I think dairy cows are adorable, but I also have a greater appreciation for them now.” 

Students from Alabama School for the Blind won the state 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl in October 2023.

Alabama Farmers Federation Dairy Division Director Colton Christjohn said 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl and similar opportunities are vital to support the state’s declining dairy industry. 

“We currently have 15 state-permitted dairies in Alabama,” Christjohn said. “We used to have thousands, but as the numbers have declined, so has the public’s knowledge about the industry. I think it’s wonderful these students and teachers are educating themselves, and hopefully they’ll share that information with others.”

Zieglschmid-Sylvester said he wants everyone he meets to understand the dairy industry like he and his teammates now do.

“The dairy industry is a way bigger part of everyday life for people in the U.S. and all over the world than we notice,” Zieglschmid-Sylvester said. “I personally have a lot more appreciation for places like this where it’s their main source of income and they take care of these cows. It’s amazing. This trip has been a lot of fun and very insightful.” 

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