Evaluating a grazing system, wildlife habitat, soils and identifying plants are some of the things that Arkansas 4-H members had to learn to compete in the 16th annual Mid- America Grassland Evaluation Contest held June 3 in Springfield, Missouri. Arkansas 4-H teams from Cleburne, Randolph, Madison and Van Buren counties and an FFA team from Pocahontas competed in a field of 26 teams from Missouri, Ohio and Arkansas. The FFA team from Pocahontas was the first from Arkansas to compete in the Mid-America competition.

To qualify for the Mid-America Grassland Contest, each team had to place in the top five of the Arkansas Grassland Evaluation Contest. The students have to complete four sections in the contest including Grassland Condition, Wildlife, Soils and Plant ID.
 
 For the Grassland Condition section, the students must assess current grazing conditions in the field, determine fertilizer and weed control recommendations, calculate how much forage is needed in spring, summer, fall and winter for an example herd and make recommendations for improvement – all in 25 minutes.
 
For the wildlife section, students must evaluate the field habitat value for quail and rabbits, make recommendations to improve the habitat and answer 20 questions on wildlife management.
 
In the soils section, students must locate the contest site on a soil map, determine the correct soil, answer questions evaluating the soil, guess the slope of the field and determine suitability of 10 forages for that site. 
 
 In the plant ID section, the students must correctly identify 25 pasture plants from a list of 75 possible species. An extra twist is that in order to receive points for a correct plant ID, each plant’s life cycle has to be answered correctly as well.
 
At first glance the contest appears overwhelming, but after some study, students and agents learn the flow and logic of the material. Many county agents and vo-ag teachers from several states have commented that it is probably the most real-life contest available.
 
Arkansas 4-H teams competed very well in the 2015 Mid-America Grassland Evaluation Contest, taking fourth-place individual honors and third- and fifthplace teams in the 4-H Division amid very tough competition. Cleburne County 4-H, coached by Cleburne County staff chair Michelle Mobley, took third place team. Mobley’s team won the 2015 Arkansas Grassland contest. Team members were Rachel Wilson, Stephen Wilson and Kathryn Beckdoldt. Rachel Wilson took fourth place individual. Randolph County 4-H took fifth place team.
 
The Randolph County team was coached by Randolph County staff chair Mike Andrews. Team members included Jesse DeJournett, Blaine Huddleston and Garrett Andrews. Andrews also coached the Pocahontas FFA team. Team members were Will Sparks, Brittany Luttrell and Clara Luttrell.
 
The Madison County 4-H team was coached by Madison County 4-H agent Jerry Jo Hamm and included members Mitchell Nelson, Anna Shrader and Laura Ogden. 
 
The Van Buren County team was coached by Van Buren County staff chair Danny Griffin. Team members included Bryce Sawyer, Clay Evans, Brooklyn Smith and Casey Deckard. 
 
Congratulations to these young people for competing and for learning about managing grasslands and forages.