Michigan 4-H Livestock Judging Team competes at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition

Allegan County 4-H youth member finishes sixth overall at national livestock judging contest.

Michigan 4-H livestock judging team members at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition Junior Livestock Judging Contest. From left to right: Bridget Weller (Allegan County), Abby Brubaker (Ingham County), William Barnum (Ingham County) and Lee Blumenauer (Washtenaw County). Photo credit: Nikki Hersch

Zeeland resident Bridgett Weller, a Michigan 4-H member from Allegan County, was the sixth highest individual in this year’s Keystone International Livestock Exposition Junior Livestock Judging Contest. This year’s contest was held Saturday, October 5, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with 50 youth participants from across the eastern United States. Bridgett was joined by Abby Brubaker (Ingham County), William Barnum (Ingham County) and Lee Blumenauer (Washtenaw County) as the four-member team representing Michigan 4-H. These youth earned their spots on the national team after competing as top individuals at the State 4-H and FFA Livestock Judging Contest in July. 

Livestock judging is an opportunity for individuals to evaluate classes of four animals from the most ideal to the least ideal, based upon commonly accepted standards for livestock. Additionally, participants justify those placings by giving oral reasons to an official. Points are awarded based on how closely the participants’ places align with how the officials ranked the animals, and how effectively they explained their placing rationale.

Though youth may compete in other judging experiences, such as dairy or horse, unique to livestock judging is the need for youth to learn the characteristics of several species: beef, sheep, swine and sometimes goats. This provides a broad learning experience to understand the structure, physiology and differences among the varying animals. In addition, livestock judging is an exceptional learning opportunity for youth as they test their skills of livestock evaluation, communication, decision making and time management.

During the Keystone International Livestock Exposition Junior Livestock Judging Contest, youth evaluated twelve classes: five beef classes, four sheep classes and three swine classes. In addition to evaluating each class, all youth answered a set of questions on market swine and Suffolk ewes. Reasons were given on one class of sheep, one class of swine and two classes of cattle. By participating, contestants illustrated their ability to evaluate livestock through both an individual and team competition. At the completion of the contest, individuals were ranked by how they finished in evaluating each species, answering questions and giving reasons. In addition to finishing sixth overall, Bridgett Weller finished fourth overall in the junior beef classes.

Thank you to the Michigan Youth Livestock Scholarship Fund for awarding this year’s team a travel scholarship to help cover the costs of lodging and transportation. For more information about the contest or to learn about 4-H livestock judging, contact Michigan State University Extension Educator Nick Babcock at babco116@msu.edu or 517-432-1626.

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