A Tradition Like No Other- National Barrow Show

The National Barrow Show has once again come and gone, and like so many years Western was dominant on so many fronts. From the judging contest to the truckloads or even the open show it was another year to never forget. School spirt was the theme of the weekend, and it truly resonates through everyone involved.

Preparation for the Barrow Show starts way before the times of the competitions. From the time the Seniors and juniors alike get back to Macomb for the school year, they set to work preparing for this great weekend. The Senior Livestock Judging Team practices endlessly, meeting at least once a day to prepare for competition. The goal of this is to prefect everything from placing the class of 4, to sounding perfect on oral reasons. The team stops at some of the premier breeding hog producers operations on their various travels. “The ability to meet with some of the greatest minds in the swine industry is truly incredible. I get to pick their brains and get to study their different viewpoints on the industry itself.” said Damon Stayton when asked about the benefits of traveling.

One of the largest workouts the team will attend all year is called the pilgrimage which started Friday, September 9th. The first workout that has kicked off this great weekend for years has always started at Western Illinois university. Teams from across the country gathered in the schools Livestock Center and judged over 10 classes of hogs from the school farm. The team then left Saturday morning headed for Austin, Minnesota; stopping many times on the way.

team-picSenior Livestock Judging Team

The junior team similarly had their work cut out for them when they arrived to a barn full of truckload hogs to get ready for the big show. Everyday their tasks included washing, walking, feeding, and health checks on over 20 barrows and gilts. Mark Hoge, Professor and Judging Team coach watches over everyday activities and acts as a crisis manager when needed.

September 12

The first day of competition final had come and the judging team was up first to square off in a day long competition swine judging. Competing against teams from Ohio to Texas the team tried out their skills they learned during practice. The judging contest had 8 classes of 4 head that are placed from first to fourth. Then there was one class of keep/cull hogs where you pick the best four pigs in the class and point totals are given to each pig. After this you are asked ten questions on this class to test your ability to remember the hogs set before you. After the judging portion of the contest, the kids were bussed over to a nearby church where they gave 4 sets of oral reasons to one of the officials that put the placings on the classes.

That same day the junior team went to work on the truckload competition. The truckload show is where 6 hogs are driven across a ring and they judge for quality and uniformity of a single load. Those loads are all scored and brought back in for an overall competition. Western had three truck loads in the show; A Yorkshire, Spot, and Crossbred load. The Yorkshires were the Champion Purebred Load and the Champion Overall Load. The crossbreds were Reserve Crossbred Truckload. Then the Spot load was the Reserve Lightweight Purebred Truckload. With the big win, it was the second year in a row that the Champion Load came from Western Illinois.


September 13th

The next morning the judging team was up to hear how they did in the contest, they headed to the ceremony held at the fairgrounds. After much excitement the judging team ended up third as a team.

  •      Individual highlights include
    • Hayden Wilder- High individual overall oral reasons and 5th overall individual.
    • Kade Knapp- 10th overall high individual.

The team battled hard against some talented teams across the country and couldn’t have been more proud. “coming back from summer break is always tough to get back readjusted,” Said Kade. “I love this team though and everyone on it. There is no doubt in my mind that we will be there in the end. These kids are my best buds.”

The agriculture program and more importantly the Livestock Judging team holds itself to a higher standard to achieve success and represent a university that is truly great. That weekend goes to show just how competitive the hog farm is and how good of a job we are doing at raising high quality pigs that can compete at a national level.

For the judging team this is only the begging to show what we are truly capable of this fall. These contests are all lead up to the national contest held in Louisville, Kentucky. The goal is to keep working and try to get better each and every day. “its a lot like feeding a show barrow,” Assistant coach Walter Colvin Said. “The team is just a skinny barrow that in the end is going to catch up and look fresh in the end.” Thats the goal for the judging team this year. They want to prove just how special and talented of a group they really are.

The Western Illinois Livestock Judging Team recently finished their season which ended in Louisville, Kentucky at the NAILE. The team had great success throughout the year and worked hard until the end. Many members had individual success along the way at the array of contests attended. The Team is looking forward to helping get the Juniors off to the right foot as they start competition in January.

Blogged by: Clayton Boyert

I am senior at Western Illinois University and a member of the Livestock Judging Team. I am graduating this spring and getting a degree in Agriculture Business. I have a strong passion for agriculture and most importantly the show cattle industry.


The Legacy of WIU Swine Farm

One of the major reasons I chose to attend to Western Illinois University is the Swine Farm. From a young age I was competing in the show-ring at the 4-H, State, and National levels. To me, showing pigs is the greatest extra circular activity possible. So, why not attend a University that is nationally know for their show-pig enterprises? Honestly, it was basically a no-brainer for me to come to Macomb and have the chance to be apart of the legacy that is Western Illinois University!

Since Dr. Mark Hoge took over in 2003, Western Illinois University Swine Farm became a household name within the swine industry. To get started it took major support from the alumni base and students to make it happen. In 2003 Dr. Hoge called Kevin Killey, a local farmer of Roseville, and asked if he could bring eight Yorkshire gilts to the Pre-Barrow Show workout. Once they arrived it didn’t take long for the WIU crew to try and purchase these eight gilts, to start the Yorkshire herd. These gilts quickly became the foundation females and created the sow base that Western has today. Through the years, we have received tremendous support from our alumni base that has increased the genetic value of the herd. Much appreciation goes to boar studs for working semen deals to keep costs low, along with donations from families closely tied to the school farm.

Pre-Barrow Show workout at Weisinger Farms
Barrow Barn where truckloads get prepared

The biggest role the swine farm plays, is the provider of the truckload pigs for the National Barrow Show. Many people have wound around Wigwam Hollow Road to see the barrow barn. This is where a lot of the junior judging team members spend most of their August and September preparing hogs for the truckload competition and the judging workout. When you are at the barrow barn not only are we creating team chemistry, but we are also teaching one another and learning new techniques. When people walk into the livestock center the walls are filled with trophies and pictures of past teams and their truckload winners. However what people do not see is the backroom shelves full of them as well. This is the staple of what Western does, and this summer it was in the spotlight. Western sold 3 boars at the World Pork Expo, Summer Type Conference, and National Barrow Show that totaled $47,500. This was something that every student that walked in to that barn was able to have the feeling that they were apart of those 3 boars in some way or another.


With an old school facility and new age techniques WIU still strives to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to breeding. We often use the swine farm as a means of teaching for animal science classes. We use the sow herd for experiments of new practices to compare to traditional practices. We also use the swine farm to give the opportunity to people who do not have an agriculture background the chance to learn more about the swine industry.

Champion York Boar at the 2016 World Pork Expo that Crossroads Genetics purchased for 10,000 dollars. Named Necknation

As I begin to look back on my two years here at WIU it has truly been an honor to be part of the legacy that is the swine farm. I reflect on all the people that have impacted our herd and only hope that when I graduate and the next group comes in they will continue the legacy.

Champion Spot Boar at the 2015 Summer Type Conference, ShowTimes Sires purchased LTD for 4,000 dollars

My name is Damon Stayton and I reside in Carlinville, Illinois. I grew up on a farm where we raised row crops and Poland China showpigs. I am currently a Senior at Western Illinois University, I am majoring in  Ag Business  and minoring in Animal Science. Along with being on the Livestock Judging Team I spent a lot of hours at the swine farm.


5 Tips for Purchasing Livestock


No matter what specie of livestock interests you, it is important to be educated on what you are purchasing. I am not going to say that I know everything, but as the co-owner of Knapp Cattle, here are a few of my suggestions when making buying decisions.

1.Keep Them Sound

Before any success in the pasture, farrowing crate, or the show ring livestock must have the ability to move. What is sound, exactly? There is not a concrete definition, but here is my breakdown. For example, it is important to study angles up front, spine, length of hip, and set to their hind leg. All structural integrity starts at the ground with the foot quality and shape. It is critically important for livestock to be right in their angles, smooth in their joints, and to be good footed in order to hold together, to reach their endpoint and appropriate mature weight.


Mallory Espenscheid’s 2nd place sheep at Iowa State Fair and multiple time jackpot winner, sold by Knapp Livestock.

2.Keep Them Genuine

Genuine livestock have natural skeletal width underneath, and that facilitates for the right kind of shape and volume from there up. Livestock that combine true width with a bold shape to their rib, you will notice, have the ability to truly proportion. Keeping livestock genuine significantly improves long-term ability to be productive and grow, while maintaining balance and proportionality. Buying livestock that are not genuine, will garner you backward progress in reaching an endpoint.


Reserve Grand Champion Steer at the Minnesota Junior Spring Classic.

3.Study Pedigrees 

Studying lineage may be one of the most critical factors in selecting livestock. As a buyer, knowing pedigrees should instill confidence and predictability in your purchase. Genetics will generally prevail within a maturity curve, even though livestock may look good on the day of purchase, expect genetics to take over. When you study livestock, and keep pedigree and linage a true priority, the odds should end in your favor.


Reserve Grand Champion Steer at the 2015 Nebraska State Fair, sold by Knapp Cattle.

4.Set a Goal

Knowing your goal and endpoint must be a priority before making a purchase. For purchasing show livestock, you must have an endpoint show in mind where your animal will be 12 o’clock. Now, we all enjoy showing our livestock at jackpots on the weekends, but it is important that you are cautious in terms of management, to not hinder your endpoint goal. I would recommend having checkpoints throughout the show season to ensure that your livestock are on the appropriate maturity curve to meet your goal.


Champion Maine Anjou Heifer at the 2016 World Beef Expo, sold by Knapp Cattle.

5.Understand Maturity

Speaking of maturity, what is it exactly? My interpretation of maturity is the skeletal size, relative to the fat and muscle deposition at a certain point in an animals growth curve. Age plays a major role in the maturity curve of livestock. You must ensure that you are purchasing livestock that are the right age, and frame size relative to mass when considering your endpoint. Obviously, age and maturity will differ depending on your endpoint, but it is critically important for show and production success.


Reserve Champion Barrow 2015 Beast of the East Show, shown by Kade Knapp.

Written by: Kade Knapp


Hello everyone! My name is Kade Knapp, I am currently a Senior at Western Illinois University studying Agricultural Business with a minor in Animal Science. I grew up on an acreage in the small town of Stanwood, Iowa, raising and trading show heifers and steers to families that exhibit on a local,  state, and national level. Being a co-owner for Knapp Cattle has developed my most genuine passion for the livestock industry. I enjoy working with youth, and studying how livestock mature differently throughout the show season. Thank you for visiting the Western Illinois University School of Agriculture Blog, be sure to scroll through some of my peers posts too!

WIU Sportsman Club

About WIU Sportsman: The WIU Sportsman Club is comprised of students who love spending time outdoors. During your time as a member you will get to enjoy various hunting and fishing trips that are established during meetings. We also as a club hold raffles and banquets in order to help support our foundation and enable us to keep the WIU Sportsman Club alive.

How to get involved: Every fall semester various clubs and intermural teams hold an open house in the Union Grand Ball Room. Which time incoming freshmen or transfer students can sign up for the team or club in which they desire. This is where I had the unique opportunity to sign up for the Sportsman Club, where you will put down your phone number and email address in order to inform you of meeting times, locations, changes, and other items of business. If for some reason you cannot attend the open house you can contact someone you know who is in the club. Or using Western’s home page and in the search bar type in Sportsman Club it will tell you when and where to meet, who is in charge, and how to contact them.

Meetings: Meetings are held on Thursdays every week, unless informed otherwise, generally around 6 p.m. either in Waggoner Hall room 202 or at Argyle Trap Range. The duration of the meetings is completely dependent on how much material we have to discuss, they can last 20 minutes or they can last up to an hour. The first meeting of the year is to cover the bases of what is needed to join; such things include a 20 dollar fee and a foid card if you are going to bring a firearm and ammunition. If you do not have a foid card the members of the club will be more than willing to help you obtain one. Because the storage of a firearm or ammunition is obviously prohibited on campus you might be wondering then where do we keep them if we want to bring our own? Some members of the club have apartments off campus that would be willing to shelter your firearm until the time you need it. I myself had to have the president of the club shelter my gun until we went on a hunt or to the trap range.

After the first meeting we discuss various things such as banquets in which the students of the club sell tickets in order to raise money for our club. At which time the participators of the banquet can win various prizes and enjoy a delightful meal. Also during the club meetings members organize hunting trips, fishing trips, and a raffle in order to further our funding for the club. On days that are nice out we tend to make our way out the trap range and get to shoot 25 rounds for 5 dollars. If you have your firearm at someone’s apartment they will bring it with them or you can use someone else’s gun, however you have to bring your own ammunition. Not everyone who joins the club is going to like both the hunting and fishing, as for me I joined for the hunting portion. While I do occasionally like to fish but when it comes between the two, hunting takes the top priority.

Hunting and Fishing Trips: Last year we were able to do a pheasant hunt that was located pheasant-hunt-01-1a couple of hours away from Western. Upon arrival of the place we were given instructions of what would happen and then proceeded to the hunting grounds. The man had several acres of upland game bird habitat and ran bird dogs to aid us in harvesting the pheasants. As shown from the pictures it was a rather successful and fun day. After the hunt was over we paid a portion of the fee and then the club covered the rest. We took the birds back with us, cleaned them and then divided them up between the members of the club.

Also from last year we were able to take a trip down to Missouri in pheasant-hunt-02order to go fly fishing. The club stayed at a cabin and had to purchase their own fishing license, pole, lures and waders if you were daring enough to plunge yourself into the cold water. The trip was for two days and again was successful in catching various amounts of fish. The club this year is looking to return to the pheasant grounds and is hopefully able to keep the good fortune alive. We are in the process now of organizing a hog hunt that is close enough to drive there in a reasonable amount of time and back so we do not have to miss much classroom time.

Banquet and Raffle: Every year in the month of September the club holds a banquet in which the members of the club are given tickets and are expected to sell them. As stated above during the banquet attendees can win various prizes, play unique games, and enjoy a delicious meal. Last year during the WIU AgMech show we were able to raffle off a brand new rifle. The club had its own booth in which spectators would come and buy tickets and then we drew their name out when the event was over. All of the money earned from both the banquet and the raffle goes towards our club funding in order for us to continue what we love to do. If you are wanting to find out more about our organization we do have a Facebook page. All you have to do is type in the search bar WIU Sportsman Club and you will be able to find what you are seeking for.




My name is Matt Nielsen, in the first picture I am second from the right, and am a senior here at Western. I am currently pursuing a degree in Agriculture Science and have had the unique opportunity to join the Sportsman Club here at Western.

A Farmer’s Security Blanket


On November 26, 2016 By Cameron Turnbull

While being raised on a family farm and working in the agriculture industry I knew that crop insurance existed, but I didn’t know anything about it or how it worked. My understanding of crop insurance was that if something damaged the crops so bad that they couldn’t be harvested then my Dad would be paid the going market price for the crop for all of the damages. It wasn’t until I started working in the crop insurance business that I actually grasped what it actually was.

In the summer of 2016 I started working for Rain and Hail Crop Insurance as an intern. I got the job through a golf buddy that also works for the company as a Regional Manager. At the time I didn’t really have any passion for the business and it was just another job to pay the bills. It wasn’t until I started working for Rain and Hail that I considered that I may want to pursue a career in crop insurance.

So what is crop insurance?

Crop insurance can be purchased by agricultural producers, such as farmers, to protect themselves against crop loss from damaging weather or loss of revenue due to declining prices of agricultural commodities. In 2014 the average insurance premium cost for 85% coverage was $24.41 per acre.  It is designed to be a safety net or a security blanket to provide some cushion for the insured. It is not designed to pay for seed costs or input costs such as fertilizers. While working in the industry you will meet some clients that don’t understand that it doesn’t cover everything. While they will receive a payment, many times that payment isn’t what they were expecting. Depending on what kind of coverage the insured has, they may get a big payment or no payment at all if the damage doesn’t exceed a deductible for example. There are policy options that cover virtually every type of loss. While those options are in place, it is up to the farmer to follow the proper steps to assure that their claim gets covered. According to Rain and Hail’s 2015 data, over $450 million was paid out to farmers in Illinois. Most, if not all farmers have replant coverage on their crops. Along with replants common coverage options include: wind damage, hail damage, prevent plant coverage, revenue protection, and even vandalism coverage.

(Photo credit: National Crop Insurance Services)

Why is crop insurance important?

Crop insurance has been referred to as the most important risk management tool in agriculture. It provides a comforting feeling for a producer that if a big hail storm comes through and ruins his crop then he will get a percentage of compensation and it isn’t a total loss. For producers without this protection Mother Nature can come along and destroy their livelihood on one stormy night. One storm causing a total farm loss could drive a farmer out of business.

Because Mother Nature is so unpredictable it is important that producers are covered by crop insurance now more than ever in this competitive industry.


Hi, my name is Cameron Turnbull and I am a Senior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agricultural Business. I grew up on a family farm in the small town of Sparland, Illinois. I am currently employed with Rain and Hail Crop Insurance as a Crop Adjuster and I am pursuing a full time position with the company. If you are interested in pursuing a career in crop insurance you can check out Rain and Hail’s website at http://www.rainhail.com. Follow me on Twitter @CamTurnbull95

The Future of Agriculture


Today’s production agriculture is changing rapidly with the advancements of technology in the farming industry.  Advancements in seed genetic technologies and other precision GPS capabilities, are improving methods in agriculture for the better, allowing farmers to get the most out of their farming practices. These technologies have advance tremendously since the 1970s which has improved agriculture production efficiency for farmers in positive ways. With the projected population growth increasing to 9 billion people by 2050 farmers need to be more efficient with their resources. Time is always of the essence when it comes to cash crop production, advancing technology allows farmers to get the most out of the time in the tractor with some equipment driving itself by using GPS coordinates received from the receptor on the tractor.

Variable rate technologies are improving as well with precision planting equipment that increases farmer’s placement valuable, input of seed, and fertilizer.  With input cost on the rise, farmers are trying to become more efficient, investments of new technologies may be an expensive route, however with proper use it can pay for itself in years.  Technologies are allowing farmers to become more effective in production reducing the amount of land used while increasing yields per acre.  Farmer’s maybe frightened or intimidated by new technology due to the mandatory updates each year, however they are manageable if the time is taken to learn about these new practices and improvements.

Our family farm first introduced new technologies in the 2000s. Each year we become more confident with the use of new technology on our equipment and are able to adapt easily to new changes.  One improvement that plays a huge role in our family farm is GPS, which allows us to keep a precise line when pulling equipment in the field. This innovation reduces stress and fatigue on the operator allowing him or her to easily observe equipment thus reducing and preventing potential problems.  Another popular technology advancement is a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) this have become popular identify potential problems within a field. UAV’s are the future of agriculture with so many possible ways to utilize them the list is endless. Some UAV’s have inferred capabilities which can show health levels in fields such as corn.  Over the past summer while interning for a pioneer dealer, I scouted multiple fields using an UAV to get over view shots of customers fields to assess diseases and chemical problems. This opened my eyes on how many uses a UAV could provide for the agricultural sector.

Agriculture technology is advancing at an alarming rate that is hard to keep up. However, with the right programs and seminaries farmers can gain understanding of new farming technologies which will result in a benefit to production and a positive future for generations in agriculture.

What Paul Harvey Did Not Tell You

In Paul Harvey’s poem “So God Made a Farmer” the first sentence of the 4th verse has always stuck with me:  “God said, I need somebody willing to set up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say ‘Maybe next year’.” Anyone who raises livestock can tell you this all to well. But what the poem does not tell you is how hard he had to work to deliver that animal and the joy he felt when he pulled a live one and then anguish of slowly watch it go all down hill from there.  It did not tell you, he had been up the night before and the night before that. It does not tell you the decision he will have to make of finding a new calf to put on the cow or to just fatten her and sell her even though she is one of your best. It does not tell you the guilt he feels for losing it even though it was completely out of his control.

Our family cattle operation, will start calving season come  January 20 and each season brings it own challenges, success, and emotions. It is always exciting to see what each new calf will bring. This year we have a new bull with one of our herds so we are anxious to see what he will bring to the table. Right now we are making sure everything is set up and ready to go, that the calving barn is clean, the puller and chains, and OB. box is ready to go,  and with 50 new heifers Dr. Saxe our vet is ready for those 3 am phone calls.

Then after the first 2 a.m. check, tired will set in, especially if the weather turns really bad and we have to go on a 2 hour rotation of checking cattle. The whole time while putting on your boots you keeping pray that no one is calving. That you can just go back to bed and get warm cause the temperature will be in the teens or below. Sometimes your payer is answered with a yes. Sometimes it is answered with a 6 a.m.  wake up cause one is calving. Then there’s those times it is answered with going two days with only 4 hours of sleep and that was only shifts of 20 minute naps  taken in the truck waiting for them to calve. But in the moment of delivery you don’t  even notice especially once the calf hits the ground. because in that moment, it is all about  getting right on the calf to help him get the fluid out of him, getting his tail, ears and nose dried so there is no frost bite.

Then comes the best part of all, the moment you having been waiting for, for  9 months the moment when you can turn him over to his mother and she just falls in love with him and claims him. The thing is, you don’t even notice your cold and tired in


Sometimes it is too cold or the pull was to hard and they are brought inside over night to recover.


those moments, because you just watched all your hard work pay off. It is only in the rare moments of loss you realize it. It’s when the calf had too hard of a pull and he is on the ground and you are doing everything you can do to revive him  and you kept telling him to ‘come on stick with me’ and then you watch his last breath and his eyes go blank. That is the moments you notice, because for all of your hard work for that year just went out the window. Because, in that moment all you get is little bit of bitterness, and some guilt to go with being cold and tired and all you can say is “maybe next year.” Then a couple hours later, a new calf is born, and he’s is your focus at that moment and then you get to ride the high of another healthy calf.

Paul Harvey can tell you how the farmer was sad of the loss of the animal but it will never tell you the all the hours and work he put into that one animal. It will never tell you how tired, and cold he is. It will never tell you that not only did he lose the calf but he will probably have to get rid of the mother even if it is his favorite because she failed to perform her job. But the poem also doesn’t tell you how much joy he feels for each live healthy calf. The pride he feels as he watches them grow. The way he will laugh, when he turns them out in the spring on new pasture as they run and play.  See God also said “I need some who can push through the loss and move on to the next so they can enjoy the blessing I’m about to give them”. So God made a cattlewoman.




head-2My name is Heather Reynolds, I am a senior at Western Illinois University with a Major in Ag business. I grew up on a cattle and row crop farm in Pike County, IL.  After graduation I will be working as a commodity broker and on my family’s farm. This blog is dedicated to my mother who lives this day in and day out. For she is the one who gave me my love of cattle.