SHERIDAN — For as long has humans have domesticated animals with intentions of producing meat, livestock judging as become a vital aspect in the agriculture industry. Butchers have to be able to judge how much meat they can cut out of an animal just by looking at the live animal.
Breeders are responsible for producing the next generation of quality meat supply and have to be able to choose which desirable traits should be passed down from the male and how well females are able to produce and take care of their offspring.
Those responsible for raising the animals and feeding them to the point of slaughter had to judge how well the young animals would convert the food that was available into useful meat.
Wyoming has recently developed the 307 Livestock Judging Series, which is designed to increase participation in state-wide livestock judging contests. They hold sanctioned judging contests around the state for Wyoming kids to become more competitive at a higher level.
After attending multiple of the judging series competitions, Sheridan High School’s John B. Kendrick FFA livestock judging team has become so cohesive and competitive they haven’t flinched at the thought of competing that the National FFA Competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I’m feeling pretty good, every single one of us has been really competitive at every competition we’ve hit this year so we’ll pack up how confident we feel today and we’ll show the national judges,” said Braden West, member of the team said.
Team members compete as individuals, ranking cattle, goats, pigs and sheep into the highest quality of class. They then talk to a set of judges and give their reasoning as to why they placed the market animal where they did. Then, their scores will be given to them individually and then averaged as a team.
The team’s oldest member will be entering his junior this fall. But regardless of being young, Travis Adam, volunteer livestock judging coach is impressed with maturity and keenness each competitor has developed.
“I honestly think these kids are as good as any that you’re going to find in the country just because of what they know, how smart they are and their ability to articulate what they see depending on what their context is,” Adam said.
The 307 judging series was commended for unlocking doors in the future for the adolescence in Wyoming.
“A lot of these kids will end up on scholarships at a university just like any athlete would. With the 307 Judging Series, the kids just get so many more opportunities to lay their eyes on quality livestock and they get to meet so many people who are in the livestock industry, which is where each one of them wants to be,” said Clay Christensen, Sheridan High School’s FFA Livestock Judging coach said.
When asked, every kid on the livestock judging team said they hope to compete in college and have plans to continue in the agriculture industry.
“I know the time I’m dedicating right now is going to impact the livestock industry when I’m older,” Kaycee Pearce, a member of the team said. “I want to be able to pick out the highest quality of animal because soon it’ll be for my own operation.”
“We’re also meeting people who we can call 20 years down the road that I feel like will be willing to help us in whatever we need when the time comes,” Maggie McStay, a member of the team said. “We’re not just competing, we’re networking.”
Currently Maddie Mcstay and Braden West are both ranked top ten in the state of Wyoming, standings created by the livestock judging series. The children will compete at Nationals in November.