U livestock judging team claims first national title

Pamela Steinle

University sophomore Jake Grass knows a good heifer when he sees one.

He looks for good shape in the hindquarters, deep body and good curvature to the ribs.

And now, his prodigious eye for the bovine goodies is finally paying off.

Grass is one of six members of the University’s General Livestock Judging Team, which just brought home its first national title.

The group finished first out of 35 teams at the National Stock Show in Denver on Jan. 18. Grass, who studies finance and marketing, was the highest scoring individual competitor at this meet.

Joining Grass on the team – which judges cattle, sheep and hogs – are Nathan Resch, Chad Steele, Kelly Schmidt, Liz Schleicher and Ryan Donnelly.

Prior to the recent trend in university budget cutbacks, coach Jerry Hawton said the competition was continually growing. Even now, there is an increase in two-year junior college participation.

Despite the team’s recent success, many outside the agriculture industry might never have heard of the team.

“Most people in the college think this is a livestock judging event, and that’s all they get out of it,” Hawton said.

But the activity’s benefits include developing perseverance, better communication skills and improved decision-making, Hawton said.

The competition is broken down into two parts: correctly ranking four livestock animals from best to worst and giving a two-minute presentation defending the rankings.

Participants registered for the two-credit class last fall. In addition to six hours weekly of class time, members met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for hour-long practices.

Members also needed a 2.0 minimum grade point average, a course load of at least 12 credits and a willingness to sacrifice weekends and vacations.

For example, the team practiced Dec. 26 – 30 and Jan. 2 – 12. Participants left Jan. 13 for Denver, and returned home Jan. 21.

Those from non-agriculture backgrounds should keep their eye on the team, Hawton said, because these students will likely become leaders in the agriculture industry.

“I think as people go back and look at the livestock leaders in Minnesota and other states, they’ll see that the leaders in the industry were on livestock judging teams,” Hawton said.

And whether directly or indirectly, the entire nation is connected to agriculture, Grass said.

“Agriculture is important because it is a large part of America,” Schleicher said. “We have to eat.”

Pamela Steinle welcomes comments at [email protected]