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Kalispell ag center hosts district competitive events

Daily Inter Lake | March 3, 2023 12:00 AM

More than 200 FFA students from a dozen high schools around Montana recently converged at the H.E. Robinson Agricultural Education Center in Kalispell for a chance to earn a spot at state in March.

The ag center hosted a day of Western FFA District competitive events on Feb. 20. Ronan High School hosted the second day of the competition. Students competed in veterinary science, sales and service, parliamentary procedure, agronomy, mechanics, livestock evaluation and multiple speaking events.

Ag student Makenna Howard provided a tour of the events after walking through classrooms where competitors took written tests to identify surgical tools and parasites and quiz them in math skills. There were also hands-on portions of the competition which Howard referred to as practicums.

“A practicum is any of these tasks they have to perform that is like haltering a sheep, or filling a syringe, or putting the ‘cone of shame’ on the dog,” formally known as Elizabethan collars, Howard said, smiling. “They’re just practical skills that any veterinarian or vet tech would have to perform that the kids learn how to do.”

At each practicum, competitors such as junior Baylie Thompson, a student at the ag center, recited each action they took to volunteer judges.

The competitions are also an opportunity for former students to return to help out including Thompson’s judge Delaney Modderman, a former vo-ag student who is a sophomore in college studying education to become a teacher. She attended the ag program all four years of high school and jumped at the chance to return when asked to judge.

“I was more than willing to come help any chance I can come back to the ag center I will. I love it here,” Modderman said.

Practicing the hands-on portions of the competition requires more than studying from a textbook.

“We have stuffed animals we use, but we … we’ll get together study groups to go practice on real animals,” Thompson said, which is easier when it comes to small animals such as dogs and cats. “We have our own animals at home that we practice on. This week we went over to a friend’s house and we practiced on her cats.”

For this competition, the only stuffed animals the students work on were cats where students went through the process of properly restraining them for jugular venipuncture.

“So you hold their head and pull it back and then you have their legs extended out so the vet can insert [a needle] into their jugular,” said Thompson, who is hoping to become a veterinarian.

Volunteer judge and retired livestock veterinarian John Erfle told a group of competitors, who wrapped up haltering sheep as part of the competition, that there is a huge need for livestock vets. Livestock vets, also known as large animal vets, specialize in animals such as cows, horses, llamas, pigs, sheep and goats, for example.

Erfle thinks the biggest challenge in drawing more interest in caring for large animals is the work-life balance.

“There’s not such a thing as a large animal emergency clinic so each practice has to take their after-hours calls or night calls [it] is a little more demanding,” he said.

Erfle said he helps out a lot with the veterinary science program to support students in their studies as potential vets.

“That’s [high school] where young people start to connect with animals and agriculture and hopefully are able to see themselves pursuing a career,” he said.

The Montana State FFA Convention is scheduled March 22-25 in Great Falls.

Following are Kalispell FFA results.

Veterinary Science

First-place team: Ethan Bay (first place individually); Jordyn Greene (second place individually); Shelby Bergman, (third place individually) and Gracie Todd (fifth place individually).

Sales and Service

First-place team: Sophie Banzet (first place individually); Addie Shepard (sixth place individually) Aaron Connors and Rylee Glimm.

Prepared Speaking

2 Bryce Dorsett

Extemporaneous speaking

2 Rylee Glimm

Parliamentary Procedure first-place: Rylee Glimm, Rochelle Becker, Kate Ford, Laila Sargent, Madison Brist and Jayla Wise.

Star Greenhand (best overall freshman)

1 Madison Brist

FFA Creed Speaking

1 Alexa Piseno

3 Laila Sargent


First-place team: Ethan Bay (first place individually); Addie Shepard(fourth place individually); Evan Heupel (fifth place individually) and Aaron Connors (sixth place individually).


Second-place team: Gavin Mailman (third place individually); Cameron Seymour (fifth place individually); Zach Gray (eighth place individually) and Tracen McIntyre.

Livestock Evaluation

Second-place team: Evan Heupel (fifth place individually); Dillon Jewett (sixth place individually); Tracyn McIntyre (seventh place individually) and Jocelynn Hawbaker.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or


Kalispell FFA student Baylie Thompson demonstrates to a judge how to secure an Elizabethan collar on a dog as part of the Western District FFA competition at the H.E. Robinson Agricultural Education Center in Kalispell on Monday, Feb. 20. The protective collar is used to prevent animals from licking, biting or scratching wounds. (Hilary Matheson/Daily Inter Lake)