Judging made me happy

At one of our editorial meetings recently, another editor asked us to share something happy from the recent weeks. It took me a second, but then it came to me. Livestock judging.

In the past couple months a local 4-H family expressed an interest in resurrecting the livestock judging team in our county. Two volunteers offered to help the 4-Hers practice and teach them how to give reasons, and unbeknownst to my kids, I signed them up. And this made me really happy.

I’m not sure if I’m correct, but our county hasn’t really had a livestock judging team since the early 2000’s. Our team was the 1995 Kansas State Champion Livestock Judging team and competed at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1994 we were third at the Kansas State Fair and competed at the American Royal. At the Royal we were third overall and first place team in beef. Eventually my sister and I earned a spot on the Hutchinson Community College livestock judging team.

Third place livestock judging team at Kansas State Fair 1994.
Third place livestock judging team at the American Royal 1994. First place team in beef.

But it took us a while to get there. 

We spent a lot of time at weekly practices in the Extension office with our dedicated coach learning terminology and roaming the halls working up a set of reasons. Heck we even looked at slides of livestock (if that tells you my age) to start honing our skills. We had regular practices that we called “workouts” where we’d travel to local farms or ranches and look at practices classes. Sometimes we’d have to give sets of reasons on the spot or save them for our weekly practice sessions.

Our county had some success at local contests and had a really good system for practices worked out. We even began working out with the Dodge City Community College livestock judging team at one point and took advantage of their expertise and skill when it came to giving reasons. We even went to livestock judging camp at Kansas State University during the summer.

After our successful trip in 1994 we set some goals and even gathered up a few more kids to be on the judging team. We won nearly every local contest we attended in 1995. Because of the added kids and the success, Coach implemented a point system as to who would get to judge at the state fair.

Admittedly I struggled at a couple contests, and it showed. I didn’t get to mark cards at the state fair and I had to sit and wait as they finished up the contest. Talk about a life-long lesson sitting in the stands as Ford County was called champions at the fair that year. I was so happy for my teammates, but was dying inside. I was able to travel to Louisville as an alternate and practice right along them. And I ended up having one extra year of eligibility because I sat out. 

1995 Kansas State livestock judging state champions. Ford County 4-H.

Did livestock judging make you happy as a 4-Her or FFA student?