With a heat index exceeding 105 degrees Monday, it might have been easy to get distracted during this year’s Illinois 4-H State Livestock Judging Contest. Despite the heat, 175 4-H members showed up to the University of Illinois campus physically and mentally prepared to tackle eight classes of live-animal evaluation, as well as question classes and three sets of oral reasons.
The competition was just as hot as the temperature. Two 4-H members in the senior division were tied after the five hours of live placing and oral reason competition. Eric Shafer of Christian County edged out Emma Freebairn of LaSalle County for first place after the tie-breaking protocol was followed.
Other top ten individual finishers in the senior division are Nicole Haverback of Henry County, third; Lizzie Schafer of Christian County, fourth; Cody Knodle of Christian County, fifth; Jeff Vickery of Christian county, sixth; Dellana Muck of Boone/Winnebago counties, seventh; Case Hennenfent of Knox County, eighth; Ty Drach of Livingston/McLean counties; ninth; and Jenna Wheeler of Morgan County, tenth.
Christian County took the top senior team award. Members of the team include Cody and Ty Knodle, Lizzie Schafer, and Layne Lebshier. The team is now eligible to compete at the American Royal in Kansas City in the fall.
Additional top senior teams are Knox County, second; Morgan County, third; Boone/Winnebago counties, fourth; and Livingston/McLean counties, fifth.
In the junior division, Knox County 4-H member Anna Webel earned the overall championship. Other top finishers are Dayne Gittings of Henderson County, second; Hayden Beard of Knox County, third; Karly Reel of LaSalle County, fourth; Jack Link of Knox County, fifth; Preston Rhode of Livingston/McLean County, sixth; Morgan Richardson of Boone/Winnebago counties, seventh; Ava Johnson of Knox County, eighth; Raena Stierwalt of Champaign County, ninth; and Kara Luthy of Brown County, tenth.
The team of juniors from Knox County took a commanding 85-point lead to win the championship of the junior team division. Members include Hayden Beard, Jack Link, Kyle Engel, and Anna Webel. The team from Boone/Winnebago counties finished second, with Livingston/McLean counties, third; Knox County’s second team, fourth; and Ogle County, fifth.
The contest is conducted by U of I animal science department staff and coordinated by Daniel Shike, Parker Henley, and Jack Oattes, in cooperation with U of I Extension 4-H animal science educator Dan Jennings.
Oattes coaches the state 4-H livestock team which will advance to national competition at the North American International Livestock Expo in November. Members of that team will be selected in additional tryouts this summer. The Illinois 4-H Foundation supports livestock judging teams participating in national competition.
“Livestock judging teaches skills that are really beneficial,” said Justin Lewis, U of I animal science teaching assistant. “In addition to correctly evaluating animals in a short time frame, you must learn good note-taking habits that are logical and simple so you can recall them later in the day.”
Lewis evaluated all the seniors in the beef oral reasons portion of the contest. In this part of the contest, contestants must give an oral defense of the placings they made earlier in the day during the live evaluation.
“I’m looking for accuracy, first, but also good flow during their presentation,” Lewis said, adding the youth should strive to use correct livestock terminology and an engaging tone of voice during their oral defense.
Lewis said his 4-H livestock judging experience prepared him for his role as a U of I teaching assistant where he lectures classes of 400 students.
Joining Lewis as reasons judge was Dalton Lemenager, a member of the 2017 state 4-H livestock judging team. Lemenager admits that livestock judging takes a lot of time. “4-H is a choice,” he said. “For me, it’s one of the building blocks to being successful in life.”
“4-H helps me with learning good time management,” Jasper County 4-H member Miranda Ochs said. Fellow teammate Will Ochs says he is learning skills he needs for improving his livestock operation, as well as improving his social skills.
For Cole Paulek of Christian County, 4-H livestock judging allows him to have fun with friends, but also meet new people. He and his teammates had high praise for 4-H club leader Sue Schafer. “She’s very intelligent about livestock,” said Drew Mickey. “She’s a great teacher,” added Waylon Paulek.