Illinois FFA Star Farmer Shares Keys to Her Win - Cowsmo

Illinois FFA Star Farmer Shares Keys to Her Win

For fourth-generation dairy farmer Shana Lueking, whose father and grandfather served as FFA advisors, joining FFA and participating in dairy competitions was a natural order of events.

“I’ve been involved in FFA in some way, shape or form my entire life,” she says.

Lueking plays an active role on her family’s dairy farm in Hoffman, Ill. Keeping a detailed record book made sense for her daily work on the farm; using it for an entrepreneurship SAE was a no-brainer. While her family raises a variety of livestock, dairy is her passion and returned the biggest numbers, so she chose to focus her FFA record keeping on the milking herd, of which she owns more than half.

“I love cows — I collect cows,” she says with a laugh.

When she started her record book in January 2018, she owned about 20 dairy cows. Her herd has since grown to 41 cows. That growth, she believes, helped propel her to win both the Illinois Section 21 and State Star Farmer awards.

“My goal was to win a state proficiency, and I did accomplish that,” Lueking says. “To win Star Farmer for both my section and state was a complete shock.”

In addition to impressive numbers, what else was in her winning record book?

“Journal entries are super important,” she says. She wrote detailed descriptions for every task she did; for instance, recording how her heifers placed at shows. On the last day of every month, she logged how many hours she had spent on general chores like feeding, cleaning and grooming, and noted any “extra hours” spent showing heifers or traveling.

Another hefty component was keeping track of dollars and cents. Lueking meticulously tracked every income and expense, calculating the exact net profit per ounce of milk.

“It was a lot of numbers and a lot of calculations, and I did them all by hand,” she says.

Great record keeping is important, but it was simply a piece of her win, she notes.

“Once you get to the state level, everyone has just as good of a record book as you,” she says. “It becomes more about your interview. Be excited and don’t overexplain — just explain what you know. [The judges] want you to match your interview answers with the data in your record book.”

Lueking’s top piece of advice, though, is to have fun, whether you’re competing or not. Says the freshman ag business major at Murray State University in Kentucky who hopes to go into ag law: “In general, love what you do. Doing what you love and doing it well is already a success.”

Learn more about SAEs here. 

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