The American Royal Livestock Show invited vocational agriculture students to come and judge at the very first National Judging Contests in Kansas City, Missouri in 1926. Two years later, at the very same contests, 33 young men originating from 18 states, came together to establish the Future Farmers of America, an organization intended to take hardworking farm boys and teach them about leadership. The first national Career Development Event was livestock judging, and from it, sprang the FFA, an organization we all have come to respect and love. But livestock evaluation has changed a great deal since 1928. We now have a national unified system of placing classes of four animals based on their breeding potential or market value. We also have a formulated structure in which we deliver our reasoning on the placing one of the classes. It is the combination of these two tasks that make livestock judging one of the most prestigious and difficult CDE’s around today, which also makes it one of the most feared.
I’d be the first to say it makes the participants anxious, and with good reason! Placing a class of high quality animals with accuracy is a surprisingly difficult endeavor. Taking in factors such as commercial standards, industry trends, productivity, and durability make it even more complicated! As you can imagine, the difficulty level of judging leaves many beginners daunted after their very first contest. However, if a student sticks with livestock judging, it will certainly pay off in their future. John Dimick, who taught agriculture classes and coached livestock evaluation for 33 years at Phoenix and Crater high schools, says “You have to make decisions. I don’t care if you’re judging a class of steers or a class of pineapples, judging teaches you how to make clear logical decisions.” Linn Benton Community College’s livestock judging coach of eighteen years, Rick Klampe, says: “It teaches students life skills that will stay with them no matter what occupation they choose. Skills such as thinking on your feet under pressure, oral communication, critical thinking, self confidence and professionalism are utilized in all phases of our lives.”
The world of judging also opens many doors to a successful future, not only by building skills, but also making connections. Traveling across the country to evaluate livestock brings you in contact with the most cutting edge producers that run operations on scales that we could never see in Oregon. Collegiate judges shake these producer’s hands, and suddenly have a connection to a world far bigger than themselves. They’ll take the opportunity to observe how these operations work, how they are maintained, and what makes them successful. This knowledge will, in turn, make them better advocates for the agriculture industry.
In Oregon particularly, there is a group of individuals who go above and beyond when it comes to providing these opportunities to students, the livestock judging teams at Oregon State University, an Linn Benton Community College and their coaches. These teams host or collaborate on several events through the year for Oregon students including the state 4-H and FFA judging contests, the contest at OSU during Career Development Days, and the LBCC Judging Clinic. We therefore, are able to improve all our skills by receiving feedback from the top livestock judges in state. I would like to personally thank all these individuals for what they do.
This October at the 85th FFA National Convention, students from all over the country will come together and judge some of the most elite animals they will ever see just as the few farmer boys did many years before. May they go forward with clear minds and determination, especially our Oregon team from the Crater FFA Chapter!
Cove FFA Chapter Reporter