Michigan youth build self-confidence and defend their decisions through livestock judging

Michigan 4-H members have success on the national stage in livestock judging while increasing animal selection skills and improving confidence.

Michigan 4-H members compete at the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. Photo by Julie Thelen, MSU Extension

Michigan 4-H members compete at the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. Photo by Julie Thelen, MSU Extension

Four Michigan 4-H members recently returned from the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, where they competed in the livestock judging contest. What they returned with is worth much more than plaques.

Throughout the fall, these four youth have been building on their judging experiences by practicing in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Throughout that process, as well as the final practices before the contest, the team members increased their livestock knowledge and numerous life skills. The result was four youth that could clearly defend and communicate their decisions as well as have self confidence in their own abilities.

Lauren Bickel, Lapeer County 4-H member, reflected on her experience stating, “Through livestock judging, I have improved my decision making speed and accuracy while being able to defend my position. I have also learned to be more sure of myself and decisions I make because of livestock judging.”

In the same way, Brad Chapman, Monroe County 4-H member, stated, “This judging experience has impacted me by making me confident in my decisions and teaching me how to defend them in an effective way.” Chapman continued by stating, “It helped me make connections across the country and become better at speaking in front of others.” Chapman’s efforts were rewarded nationally as he was named an All-American, in additional to being recognized as the Reserve Champion Sheep Judge and tied for the Reserve Overall Judge (placing fourth).

Contestants evaluated 11 classes of livestock consisting of four individuals in each class during the judging contest. There were four classes of beef cattle, four classes of sheep/goats and three classes of swine. Each contestant then delivered four sets of oral reasons and answered three sets of questions on a specific class. In doing so, these youth had to make quick decisions based on industry experience and previous knowledge gained and then be prepared to defend their decisions.

Clinton County 4-H member Victoria Olger spoke to these skills gained, stating, “Judging livestock has positively impacted my public speaking skills, self-confidence and decision making greatly.” She also stated, “I would encourage anyone to try livestock judging because it teachers you not only about livestock, but also what you as an individual are capable of.”

Michigan 4-H livestock judging team

Michigan 4-H members from left to right: Amanda Breuninger, Brad Chapman, Victoria Olger, Lauren Bickel with MSU Extension educator Julie Thelen. Photo credit: North American International Livestock Exposition

These youth participated on behalf of Michigan 4-H as a result of recent changes to allow individuals the chance to compete on cross-county state representative teams. The members represent four counties including Clinton, Lapeer, Monroe and Washtenaw. The talented individuals from across the state were selected as a result of their placing at the Michigan 4-H/FFA Livestock Judging Contest held in conjunction with the Michigan Livestock Expo in July. Their continued drive and determination since the July contest allowed for them to have this tremendous learning experience.

Washtenaw County member Amanda Breuninger reflected on her experience on the national team, stating, “I have learned to speak my mind with confidence and back up my decisions with examples. I would encourage anyone who wants to build confidence and gain more information about the livestock industry to join livestock judging. It is a great way to meet new people and make a lot of great memories.”

This trip would not have been possible without support of the 4-H program including the following donors: Alvin J. Thelen Memorial Donations; Gary and Beth Chapman; Fifth Third Michigan State Fair; JBS USA; Lapeer County 4-H Livestock Committee; Daryl Meyer; Michigan Youth Livestock Scholarship Fund; Kate Miller; Reaume Hog Farms; Rogers Corners Herdsmen 4-H Club; Robin and Joann Schmidt; Dan Schneider; L.C. and Jackie Scramlin; Specialty Machine Service Inc; Steve and Nancy Thelen; Donations in honor of Nancy Thelen’s Retirement; and Richard and Robyn Wixom. A heartfelt thank you to all of the farms, families and businesses that helped support and teach these youth something truly special.

For additional information, visit the Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Animal Evaluation websites or contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 517-432-1626.

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