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.

Each county may enter a total of three teams, with no more than two junior teams or two senior teams. Counties may also enter three individuals. Teams are made up of four people, and the top three scores will be combined for the final team score.

There will be three classes of beef, three classes of swine and two classes of sheep. There may also be a class of meat goats substituted for one class of the other species. There will also be a class of 15 questions (5 from a beef class, 5 from a swine class and 5 from a sheep class).

More information on the 2023 contest coming in the spring!

General Rules
  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 goat).
  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. 

    Each county may enter a total of four 4-member teams and an unlimited number of  individuals in the junior and senior contests.  Those four teams can be any combination of junior and senior teams as long as at least one of the four 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.


    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.

    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.


    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 announced at the conclusion of the contest. Results 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