4-H livestock judging from a youth perspective

Wondering what it is like to actually be outside a gate judging a class of animals? Hear from a Michigan youth who recently competed at national contests.

What are the benefits of 4-H livestock judging? Hear firsthand from Michigan youth Logan Denby. Photo credit: Julie Thelen | MSU Extension

What are the benefits of 4-H livestock judging? Hear firsthand from Michigan youth Logan Denby. Photo credit: Julie Thelen | MSU Extension

4-H staff, volunteers and parents can provide many great reasons why it is important for youth to learn more about selecting their own animal projects. The animal evaluation project area, often referred to as livestock judging, allows youth to gain life skills while learning more about their project. This also provides young people with an opportunity to become more confident in their decision-making.

This article follows in line with the Michigan State University Extension series discussing how animal judging benefits 4-H members now and in all their future endeavors. Michigan 4-H’er Logan Denby competed in three national contests this fall and recently placed 10th overall in the swine division and ended up the 29th individual overall in the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. Here are some of Logan’s thoughts on his judging experience this fall.

Julie: How did you become interested in the animal evaluation project area?

Logan: I started in judging when I was 12. My cousin Kelli was on the MSU [livestock judging] team and wanted to start one in her county, so I joined and haven’t quit on her yet!

Julie: Was this judging experience beneficial to you?

Logan: More beneficial than I could have ever imagined. I never thought I’d learn so much and have so much fun! It was awesome!

Julie: What skills do you feel you learned during your judging experience?

Logan: I increased my skills in livestock judging by competing at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE). Also, I increased my abilities to stand behind my decisions.

Julie: Now that you have completed at the NAILE, how would you say the judging experience has affected you?

Logan: It has affected me and made me a better person overall. I love doing it! Julie is an awesome coach and I’m so glad we did this together. I only wish my first coach and the person that started me in judging was with me (Kelli Rau). And my mom of course!

Julie: Would you encourage someone else to do livestock judging?

Logan: Absolutely! It’s awesome. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It has made me a much better person.

Julie: Now that you have completed both your 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) career in livestock judging by competing in both national contests, what final thoughts do you have?

''Logan: Coming into livestock judging I never, ever imagined I’d be opened up to the opportunities I have today. In just the few short months that I’ve been on Julie’s team I’ve seen more sheep, cattle and hogs than I’d care to admit, completely ruined my Sperry’s and gone through an entire Steno [notebook]. I honestly couldn’t imagine it any other way. I’ve visited more farms and been to more contests than I ever thought I’d be at. Truthfully though, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way and I thank God, Julie and my first coach Kelli Rau every chance I get for this experience, as well as my mom of course for making me stick to it!

Did Logan’s story inspire you to try your hand at livestock judging? 4-H or FFA members can compete as individuals or teams of four in the state competition, the Michigan 4-H/FFA Livestock Judging Contest. This event is a collaborative effort between Michigan 4-H and Michigan FFA. Contestants judge eight classes including beef cattle, Boer goats, sheep and swine. Each contestant then answers one set of questions and either delivers three sets of oral reasons or answers three additional sets of questions, depending on their age. New in 2015, the contest will feature a 4-H Cloverbud division. The contest will be held Thursday, July 16, 2015 with regular entry fees due by July 1, 2015.

For additional information about livestock judging, visit the Michigan 4-H animal evaluation page or the MSU Extension website for animal science content.

A special thanks to the following donors who provided travel support for Logan and other members of the 2014 Michigan 4-H National Livestock Judging teams: Alvin J. Thelen Memorial donations; The Andersons, Inc.; Robert and Shirley Chapman; Family Farm and Home; Fifth Third Michigan State Fair; JBS United; Kent County 4-H; Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee; Michigan Youth Livestock Scholarship Fund; Ogemaw County 4-H; Reaume Hog Farms; L.C. and Jackie Scramlin; St. Joseph 4-H Youth Council; Steve and Nancy Thelen; and the Breuninger, Chapman and King Families.

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