To some people we seem crazy for all the time and dedication we put into livestock judging, but to us, it’s simply just a passion for the livestock industry. I’m not even sure where to start. How do I even begin to summarize the lessons learned, the life skills I’ve gained, and the friendships and connections I have made? To sum up the last four years of my life would be rather impossible. The passion, the teammates, the coaches, the schools, the time, all got me where I am today. Being a part of the Black Hawk East and WIU Livestock Judging Teams has been an experience that I would never regret and will cherish the rest of my life.
There have been thousands of miles spent crammed into a 15 passenger van, many stenos filled with notes, and hundreds of reasons sets given. Yet when I look back, all I can think of are the incredible memories made. Being on a judging team certainly isn’t for the weak. The early morning and late night practices and traveling will add up faster than you could imagine. After returning to class from either a contest or a long weekend of practicing, I’m always reminded that we aren’t considered a typical college student. We are pushed and held to a higher level by our professors, because our grades truly matter and can be the reason that we may or may not get to judge. Within the classroom, not only do the members of the team strive academically, but we also hold many leadership roles within student organizations and clubs.
Over the years, I’ve realized that people outside of the livestock industry have a hard time understanding why a college student would do what we do on the daily. Why would any student go through all of the effort, dedication, and time just to travel the country and look at livestock? It goes to a much deeper level than that. Livestock judging contests are really a one of a kind competition. When competing in a contest, an individual has a short 12-15 minute time frame to make a decision and sort the four head of livestock in front of them. After judging the 12 classes within the competition, the individuals now have to defend their decision making, in front of an official committee. Members of a judging team are required to have great communication and strong verbal skills.
“I’ll keep it really brief and concise, just like a set of reasons should be. If it weren’t Dr. Mark Hoge and the experiences I’ve had as a member of the livestock judging team, I wouldn’t have any of the friends, connections, and opportunities that I’ve been blessed with today. This “sport” has defined who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Perfectly explained by Senior Hayden Wilder.
I think I speak for all of us who have been through the judging program here at Western Illinois, that if it weren’t for Dr. Mark Hoge a lot of us wouldn’t be where we are today. We’re thankful for him instilling his knowledge and guidance upon us. He sacrifices a lot of time spent away from his family and many important events to help mold us into successful livestock evaluators. Dr. Hoge’s help has allowed us to never settle for common or average, instead he pushes us to be different and to be the best. Although the team has had great success within the program, a lasting thought will forever be instilled in us, never forget where you started and where you came from.
Be sure to stay updated on the judging team by liking WIU Livestock Judging page on Facebook!
My name is Christine Todd and I am currently a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am an Ag Science Major, with a Minor in Animal Science. I am a member of The Livestock Judging Team along with The Hoof n’ Horn Club. I love exhibiting livestock and have a passion for the agriculture industry.