The Illinois 4-H livestock judging program teaches youth to identify breeds of livestock and helps them make decisions which improve their local herds. The annual contest is held in June each year on the University of Illinois campus. Read more about the positive impact of livestock judging in this blog article. 

General Rules from 2023 for reference. 2024 info coming soon!

  1. All contestants must be 4-H members and a record of their enrollment must be on file in the respective University of Illinois Extension Office. 
  2. Contestants need not be enrolled in a project pertaining to the field in which they participate; however, state judging events should be used to support the county/club 4-H livestock curriculum.
  3. Registration is to be made on the day of the contest at the site of the contest. Fill out completely a registration card for each team in each contest.  Turn in the card at the contest.
  4. Members of past county 4-H judging teams who have represented Illinois at the American Royal Invitational Livestock Judging Contest are eligible for the State 4-H Livestock Judging Contest and are in addition to the team of four members.
  5. Individuals who have completed a year of college are not eligible to judge at the American Royal contest.  If you have a contestant that has completed a year of college, please enter that person as an individual in addition to your senior team.
  6. Contestants and coaches will not be allowed near the classes to be judged before the 10:00 am starting time.
  7. Each contestant must have a pencil and eraser.
  8. Senior contestants will give 3 sets of oral reasons and answer 15 questions (1 swine, 1 beef, 1 sheep or goats).
  9. Junior participants will answer 1 set of 15 questions (5 per specie).
  10. Twelve (12) minutes will be allowed for each class when no reasons are required, and fifteen (15) minutes will be allowed on the reasons classes.  Two (2) minutes will be allowed to give oral reasons to the judge.
  11. Water will be provided for contestants. Jackets and ties are not encouraged due to heat.
  12. Errors in calculation of results, which are reported, will be corrected up to July 2nd .  
  13. 4-H members wishing to try out for the State Team must judge in this contest to be eligible.

Preliminary Contest Information -- June

Participation:  Each county may enter a total of five, 4-member teams and a unlimited number of  individuals in the junior and senior contestsThose four teams can be any combination of junior and senior teams as long as at least one of the five teams is in a different division.  The scores from the three highest scoring individuals will be totaled for the team score.  All individuals will be eligible for individual honors.

Junior Eligibility:  Each county may enter a maximum of four, four-member teams and an unlimited number of individuals.  Contestants must not have passed their 14th birthday by January 1, 2023. All youth that are of Junior age must judge in the Junior contest and may not move up to senior division early.

Senior Eligibility: Contestants must have passed their 14th birthday and cannot have passed their 19th birthday as of January 1, 2023.  Each county may enter a maximum of four, four-member teams and an unlimited number of individuals.  Exceptions for additional entries are:

  • Any 4-H member that has completed a year of college should be entered as an extra individual and not part of your team.  If this individual has undergone training for a post secondary livestock-judging contest, he or she is not eligible for this contest.
  • Any 4 H member who has competed at the American Royal 4-H Livestock Judging Contest, as a member of the county team representing Illinois, must participate as an extra individual in the June contest and not as a part of a team.

Classes:  There will be three classes of beef, three classes of swine and two classes of sheep. In addition, a class of meat goats (market or breeding class) may be substituted for any one class of the other three species (This may be changed based on the availability of animals).

Production Information: Production information will be provided on one class of heifers, gilts and ewes.  The production information will be similar to those outlined in the Beef Improvement Federation Fact Sheet: Utilizing Performance Data in Judging Classes (Publication 400-028, August 1985) and the National Swine Improvement Federation's Utilizing Performance Data in Judging Classes (NSIF-5) on using beef and swine performance data in judging contests.

Questions:  Contestants will have one class of fifteen (15) questions, which will be worth fifty points.  Contestants will answer (5) questions on one beef class, five (5) questions on one swine class, and five (5) questions on one sheep class.  The questions will emphasize carcass and production characteristics.

Officials will inform contestants which classes will be used for questions prior to the contest.  Contestants may take notes but notes may not be used to answer questions.  All contestants will answer the questions at the same time.

Results and Awards

The summary results in the contests will be emailed within five (5) working days of the contest to the County 4-H Contact.  Detailed results and ribbons will be mailed within 2 weeks of the contest.  Contestants will be ranked in three groups with blue, red and white ribbons awarded.  Ribbons will not be awarded to county teams.

National Contests

Contestants in national 4-H competition events must not have participated in official post secondary (university, college, junior college or technical school) competitive events of a similar nature in the same subject area to be eligible for participation in national 4-H competitive events.  Also, they cannot be a member of a post secondary team undergoing training in preparation for an event. 

A 4-H member may participate in each national event one time.  Therefore, a 4-H member will not be eligible a second time for the same national event and for the qualifying invitational workout.

Contact for More Information:

Animal Science Educator
Dan Jennings