Looking at livestock is a daily routine to the livestock judging team members here at Western Illinois University and honestly we wouldn’t have it any different. Life in a 15 passenger van is where memories are made and best friends are found. No matter the miles or the hours on the road, we’re a family and dedicated to what we do.
As a college student it becomes a game to see how long you can stay awake in class after a late night looking at calves, show pigs, or lambs. Although, how many miles is too many? No matter the miles we travel any distance to see the best livestock in the country that will prepare us for competition. Let’s be honest, not many teachers will give you an excused absence for standing in a pasture 200 miles away while you should be in class. As a result we practice early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends when most college students are out with their friends. Life on the road is not just a saying for rock stars, although sometimes our playlists might indicate that we think we could be. Senior Hank LeVan reflects on his judging career to this point, “Coming from no judging experience in high school, Black Hawk helped me become confident in my ability to sort livestock. However, my time at Western has allowed me to develop into the person I am today. I’ve made some of my best friends, learned about our industry and ultimately prepared myself to be successful in the future. I can’t say enough about the coaches, the people, or the education I’ve received. It’s simply second to none and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Meet our 2014- 2015 team:
Sam Bair- Elkhart, IA
Brenen Diesen- Pocahontas, IL
Tyler Gradert- Geneseo, IL
Heath Harper- Lafayette, IN
Ashley Kauffman- Danvers, IL
Hank LeVan Woodstock, OH
Katie Lewis- Clay City, IL
Cassie Lindsey- Ashland, IL
Jennifer Livermore- Media, IL
Assistant Coaches- Walter Colvin & Sam Mattingly
Coaching a livestock judging team requires much more than most people might think. The time away from family and important events is something that only a select few are cut out for. Dr. Mark Hoge is our fearless leader and often spends more time with us then his own family. Over the years Dr. Hoge has been very successful as a coach here at WIU. “Not only does he serve as a coach to us and help to better our knowledge and ability evaluating livestock but more serves as a mentor to help each one of us grow for life and achieve as much as we can to be successful. He is someone never willing to just settle for average but yet someone seeking for different and the best. While he pushes for that still we all stay humble and hustle hard,” stated by dedicated Senior Heath Harper.
Livestock judging is a passion and is not for the weak. The dedication and willingness to learn is what makes us so successful. In a short three weeks this year’s judging team will officially call it quits but not by our own free will. As the contest in Louisville will be the last trip the seniors will embark on together. After the dust settles and we make our last trip as a team the knowledge and connections we make along the way will trump any award we have won. “In the moment we complain about the things like the weather, our lack of sleep, and the loss of our free time. However, I know when the day comes that we step out of the pungent smelling, poor climate controlled van for the final time it will hit us like a ton of bricks. Our life as we “knew” has now come to a close. The only things we are left to complain about is how bored we are, and how much we miss life on the road with our makeshift family,” perfectly put by Senior Jen Livermore.
To stay updated with the team make sure to like WIU Livestock Judging Team on Facebook!
Thanks for reading my post! My name is Ashley Kauffman and I am a senior here at WIU. I am an Ag Business Major, Graphic Communication Minor. I am also a member of the WIU Livestock Judging Team. I love showing livestock, photography and have a passion for agriculture marketing and design.