BRIDGEPORT — Over 100 students and teachers from eleven high schools in the Panhandle traveled to Bridgeport on Wednesday, Sept. 12 to test their knowledge of rangeland management.

Every fall, students who are enrolled in agriculture and natural resources courses compete in multiple range judging contests, leading up to the state contest. The contests are sponsored by the Nebraska Section Society of Range Management, to allow students in FFA and 4-H to compete. Co-sponsors include Natural Resources Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Nebraska Extension. There are seven area contests held throughout September.

The contest tested students’ knowledge of plant identification, ecological site identification and composition, rangeland conservation and grazing management.

While at the plant identification stations, students had to write the plant name and three characteristics of 24 different plants. Characteristics include life form, life span, origin, season of growth, livestock forage value, and growth form.

To test their knowledge of rangeland conservation and grazing management, the students were given a scenario of a ranch with an available forage and grazing amount. They had to determine if they needed to change the stocking rate based on the AUMs (animal unit months) available for the livestock to graze.

While students prepare for the contests, they learn about rangelands, which cover about 50 percent of the state and roughly 60 percent of the United States. Rangelands are one of the major land uses in Nebraska.

In the individual senior division, Gordon-Rushville High School had three students ribbon. Kenna Rose was the overall grand champion in the individual senior division with a total of 469 points. Berklie Haag finished in second with 413 points and Hayden Hoos took third with 393 points. Ashlyn Sutton of Sidney High School earned a white ribbon for her fourth place finish. She scored 355 points.

In the team senior division, Gordon-Rushville High School received a purple ribbon as the grand champions. The team of Kenna Rose, Berklie Haag, Hayden Hoos, and Jackson Thies scored 1621 points. Sidney High School’s senior team of Ashlyn Sutton, Seth Studnicka, Amy Christofferson, and Jenna Thies finished with a blue ribbon and scored 1187 points. Earning a red ribbon with 1015 points, Rylie Mason, Rusty Schaefer, Tucker Hodsden, and Regan Hodsden placed third for Morrill-Mitchell. The Perkins County team of Tanner Burge, Caleb Lagler, Kaden Smith, and Alex Poppe finished in fourth with a white ribbon. They scored 1,001 points.

Gordon-Rushville and Creek Valley students placed in the top four in the individual junior division. Matison Moore received a purple ribbon with her score of 402 points and Alliah Bourne earned a blue ribbon, scoring 372 points. Both students represented Gordon-Rushville. Rhett Dykstra of Creek Valley received a red ribbon for a third place finish. He scored 350 points. Beau Child of Gordon-Rushville rounded out the top four with a score of 343 points and received a white ribbon.

In the team junior division, the Gordon-Rushville team of Matison Moore, Alliah Bourne, Beau Child, and Ashton Davis received a purple ribbon. They scored 1,422 points. Scottsbluff’s FFA team took home a blue ribbon. Addie Wright, Graham Kocarik, Brooke Hotzworth, and Celest Montgomery earned 1,151 points. Creek Valley’s team of Rhett Dykstra, Grace Timm, Oakley Hodges, and Paris Jackson received red ribbons in the junior division with a score of 1,080 points. Chadron’s junior division team of Luke Kahl, Leah Weber, Ryan Carter, and Drew Milburn received white ribbons and scored 1,074 points.

Four adults also participated in the range judging contest. Maynard Conroy, agriculture and FFA instructor from Gordon-Rushville placed first. Jay Child, also of Gordon-Rushville took second, followed by Russell Stoker of Crawford, and Seth Schuessler of Sidney.

The state range judging contest is in Chase County on Sept. 25 and 26. Over 500 students are expected to compete at state.

Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald in Scottsbluff. She covers education, arts and entertainment and other general assignments. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.