Udderly successful

Milk quality judging team competes at state this week


Smithson Valley FFA

The milk quality judging team – senior Madelyn Bartek, sophomore Claire Schaeferkoeter, coach Tara Pennartz, junior Abby Permenter and sophomore Kennedy Surratt – head to state Wednesday afternoon

Margaret Edmonson, Adviser

Please don’t call them milk spitters.

The milk quality and products team hates the nickname given to them by coach Tara Pennartz, but that’s the least of their worries this week.

Senior Madelyn Bartek, sophomores Kennedy Surratt and Claire Schaeferkoeter and junior Abby Permenter traveled to Tarleton State Wednesday for the state contest.

They practiced from 4:45 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday, tasting milk, sniffing cheese and doing math to prepare. Sometimes Pennartz had to buy $400 to $600 worth of milk and cheese for practices.

“Once we used 300 spoons tasting butter and margarine,” Schaeferkoeter said.

It’s an investment that has paid off.

The team proved its worth by placing first or second at all invitational meets and second at the area meet, one of the most competitive in the state.

“Our biggest rival is Canyon,” Permenter said. “They are the only team that beat us at area.”

The competition is part of Future Farmers of America’s career development program. These young women evaluate dairy and non-dairy products such as milk and cheese and identify fat percentages and types. They also do problem solving related to milk production using charts and prompts related to proteins, fat, solids and price.

“We also have to identify milk defects,” Permenter said, “so they imitate defects, and we have to identify and score them on a scale of one to 10.”

For example, a malty taste (created by the judges mixing milk with edible and sometimes yummy ingredients) could indicate the cow has streptococcus. Or a rancid taste indicates excessive agitation of raw milk.

“I don’t drink milk or eat cheese at home,” Schaeferkoeter said. “Chocolate milk isn’t good any more.”

Not that all of them are giving that up.

“Promised Land is the best chocolate milk,” Permenter said.

They also have their own favorite cheeses: Permenter likes Swiss, Bartek picks Monterrey jack and Surratt chooses gouda.

As far as butter is concerned, the products include margarine, sticks, tubs and squeeze. Milk products run the gamut of non-dairy creamers, half and half, low fat, soy, coconut, plant-based, rice (“which is gross,” they said) and lactose free products. Non-dairy sour cream tastes like cardboard, according to the team.

All this tasting requires some cleansing of the palate, so competitors use apple juice or water.

“Apple juice leaves behind its own flavor,” Schaeferkoeter said.

Pennartz dubbed the team as milk spitters because they have to taste so many samples. In fact, they don’t eat before competition so they will miss out on the waffles at the hotel’s complementary breakfast.

“Afterward,” Surratt said, “our stomachs hurt, so we don’t want to eat anything.”


This story was updated at 4:02 on April 28, 2022.