Teen to test cow-judging skills in Scotland WEST COUNTY -- Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon


Although Mark Iager is the son of a successful Fulton businessman, he's going to do something this summer his father could only dream of.

Mark, 16, is going to Europe to judge cows.

"I had no idea he would do this good," said Mark's father, Charlie Iager.

Back when he was about the same age his son is now, Mr. Iager dreamed of going to Europe to represent the United States in dairy cattle judging.

But the Maryland team Mr. Iager belonged to finished second in that 1958 4-H Club competition in Waterloo, Iowa. He took first in individual judging and earned a gold watch he still wears on special occasions.

"Since the team was second . . . and I didn't get a chance to go to Europe, I was hoping our boys would get to go," said Mr. Iager, who now runs a dairy herd of 400 with his brother, Gene Iager.

But Mark's older brothers, Mike and Matt, both met with the same fate, competing on a Maryland judging team that finished second in the national competition.

"You have to have a little luck on that particular day," Mr. Iager said of the judging. The competition requires the teen-agers to rank four animals at a time using physical traits such as general appearance, sound feet and legs, willingness to milk, and the mammary system.

Late in September, Mark's turn finally came during the national competition in Madison, Wis.

"When he called up and said he'd won the contest, I didn't believe him," Mr. Iager said.

Not only did the four-member Maryland team place first, with 2,124 points and 10 points ahead of second-place Pennsylvania, but Mark captured first place in individual scoring, with 719 points.

It was the first time in the 73-year history of the contest that a father and son both scored highest individually.

People who follow dairy cattle judging should not have been surprised at the Maryland team's first-place finish.

Maryland 4-Hers are kind of the "Penn State of cattle judging," said J. Lee Majeskie, one of Mark's two coaches.

In fact, last year's prize was the state's 25th since the contest began in 1919.

In the 1990 national competition, another Howard County resident, Amy Brown of Glenelg, also took first place individually.

The young judges were scored on their ability to rank Jerseys, Ayrshires, Guernseys and Holsteins and Brown Swiss.

Helping to get the team into first place is the greatest honor, Mr. Majeskie said, because a trip to Europe comes with it.

In late June and early July, the team will compete in the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Scotland. But that competition includes other livestock besides cows, so team members will not be able to take top judging honors.

Mark, an Atholton High junior, and his teammates, Marie L. Speak, of Taneytown in Carroll County, Christopher "Chip" Savage and Kristi Geary, both Montgomery County 17-year-olds, will get to spend a couple weeks traveling in Europe.

"It's something that all the [4-H] youngsters in the state of Maryland work toward as they're growing up," Mr. Iager said.

And they do work.

Just as other Iagers have since Henry Iager immigrated from Germany to Howard County in 1852, Mark spends much of his time at home working on the farm.

On Tuesday, he took advantage of yet another school snow day to get an early start on his chores. As he hung wire racks holding bottles of milk -- which look like giant square infant bottles with rubber nipples -- upside down on calf pens, he spoke of his post-graduation plans.

Mark, who started judging dairy cattle when he was 8 years old, said he will probably take the $500 scholarship from the national contest and study dairy science at the University of Maryland.

"I'll go to college for four years, then go back to the farm after college," he said.

When he is not working on the family farm or doing homework, Mark said he enjoys "showing cattle at all the fairs and shows."

Like more typical suburban teen-agers, he also enjoys a few non-bovine activities, such as hunting, playing drums in Atholton's marching and symphonic bands, playing baseball and riding his Honda all-terrain vehicle.

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