By Loribeth Reynolds
A chorus of “Moos” bellowed throughout the Prairie Pavilion at the Kansas State Fairgrounds on Jan. 23 as the Hutchinson Community College Livestock Judging team prepared to practice judging cattle.
Instructor Ben Williams, the livestock judging coach, explained that the students on the team are dedicated and they devote a lot of time to develop this skill.
“These students here spend most weekends and after school hours practicing and competing,” Williams said.
“This is what we do: Four head of cattle are shown for about 15 minutes at a time in the ring, then we will judge them, have a discussion, and then rank them.”
Wyatt Dursty, Morrowville, said he doesn’t mind putting in time on the weekends with the team because it helps him improve his skills.
“It’s no different than a basketball team meeting on the weekend to practice,” Dursty said. “I like learning the principles of evaluation. I will take those with me to make my own livestock better.”
On Jan. 23, the team, made up of about 20 HCC students, entered the ring with their note pads in hand.
On this day, the team was evaluating cattle. Sometimes the group will evaluate sheep, hogs, and goats, too.
With looks of concentration on their faces, the group went to work.
Depending on whether the cattle is classified in the breeding class or the market class, the team looks for different qualities in each before passing a judgment.
“When you’re looking at the breeding category, you want to make sure that the body is sound and functional; you also want to make sure they’re attractive,” Dursty said.
“Then the market category is usually geared toward muscle dimension, and pounds of production, because ultimately, pounds pay.”
The sophomore team recently competed in the National Western Stock Show, in Denver Colorado, and they were named the Reserve Champion Team in the Carload Contest.
About 23 teams competed in this competition, from all around the United States.
The team ranked livestock based on how uniform they appeared and the condition.
“Something a little different about the show this year was they let all students compete, not just the top five on the team, and that resulted in over 200 students competing,” Williams said.
“Our team evaluated over 90 head of cattle while we were there.”
Another aspect of the livestock judging team is practicing something referred to as “reasons.”
After ranking and filling out a scorecard for each head of cattle, members then have to explain their “reasons” to an official.
Many team members practice in the basement of Lockman Hall, often pacing back and forth in the hallways, and muttering words under their breath.
“We practice our reasons a lot,” Dursty said. “Explaining our placings is probably the hardest thing about this.
It’s kind of an art. It’s like your way of presenting, and it helps a lot with public speaking.”