“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Dr. Seuss has been, and always will be, my favorite childhood book. Even to this day it sits on a stand, on my desk, in my room. Since it’s my favorite book, there is no surprise I certainly enjoy traveling. Over the last five years livestock judging has not only given me so many opportunities for new, exciting experiences, but the chance to meet so many influential people in the livestock industry.
Livestock judging has been my passion since my sophomore year in high school. Yet it’s my senior year when the opportunities started. Senior year of high school is hectic – not only do you have those stressful, overwhelming questions of deciding on what college do I go to? But you’ve got to ask yourself, “Do I move far away? Do I stay close to home?” Then it’s the decision of deciding what my degree will even be. Personally, I decided I was going to put those questions off as long as I could, little did I know then these questions would be the start of something truly amazing.
Its late November of my senior year of high school and judging practices have officially started. The Spring went great for my judging team. We were top five at every contest and constantly learning from our mistakes at each of those contests. State finals come in May, time for our last seven months of hard work to pay off. It goes, “1st place overall for Livestock Judging…. Minarets FFA!” This is where it gets good. Not only did we win, but we now have the chance to represent California at the National FFA Livestock Judging Contest. Traveling to Indianapolis with my three best friends, following our passion for livestock judging…..honestly, could it get any better?
October of 2014 our trip to National Convention begins. We had the chance to take part in the Premier Stockman Contest in Indiana. Then we traveled throughout the great state, not only seeing incredible stock but meeting the people behind them all. Ultimately, by the end of the trip our goal was successfully accomplished, we had won the National FFA Livestock Judging contest! This trip was definitely a growing experience for us. We finally learned what the chemistry of a team can accomplish.
Now here’s where livestock judging took me on a ONCE IN A LIFETIME TRIP! After winning the National Contest, we were awarded with the chance to take part in a trip to Scotland, Ireland and London. The trip would have other teams from the U.S. that had been top three at their respective National Contest. In the summer of 2015, the four us and our coaches (each of our parents) were on a 14-hour fight to Scotland. There we took part in the Royal Highland Judging Contest, visited several cattle ranches and even had the opportunity to experience some nightlife activities. My favorite visit in Scotland was meeting the owners behind Highland Waygu Ranch. This ranch is the UK’s largest producer of Waygu cattle. This was remarkable to see how accomplished they were after only being established in 2011. After a couple days in Scotland we took a ferry ride to Ireland.
In Ireland, we saw sheep ranches and crop farmland and judged in a smaller Ireland show. This contest was so much different than the typical contests back home. We judged each class as a group and each class was simply the class from the show that day. Meaning class sizes were from five to ten usually. While in Ireland we even got to see the Ring of Kerry and even go to Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone to be given the “gift of gab.” From there London was the vacation part of it, it was filled with just sightseeing of the London eye, Buckingham Place and plenty more. The trip to Europe has by far been the most amazing, inspiring experience I have had thus far. The memories I made with my three teammates/best friends will be irreplaceable!
Now, relating back to my senior year of high school. It’s late in November of 2013 and the opportunity arises for me to visit Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Nervous yet excited. Oklahoma was the furthest southeast I’ve gone up to this point in my life. The visit was awesome! Now, time goes on, but I have to keep in mind, “was I really going to move all the way to Oklahoma?”
Finally, February of my senior year I made my decision. I’m going to go be a part of the Livestock Judging Team at Northeastern Oklahoma. School started in August, wow was that scary! It was a time to make new friends. The first week we got right into judging. In two years of going to school there we traveled as a team from as far west as Denver, Colorado to as far east as Louisville, Kentucky to as far south as Houston, Texas. At NEO, I learned that your Livestock Judging Team easily becomes your family in every which way. We spent endless days practicing, and many a late nights driving. And one time, even through a whole night without a stop, just to get to a workout. In-between all the practices the producers we met were just as amazing as the quality of their livestock.
My team here taught me that competiveness within a team can be an advantage and disadvantage at the same time. I learned competiveness amongst your team members helps push each person to their full potential. Yet there’s moderation with that, because team cohesiveness gets the goal achieved. I’ll forever keep my memories I made at NEO close and never forget the friendships I made here.
My two years at NEO were absolutely incredible. Miami, Oklahoma will always have a special place in my heart.
Here I am now at Western Illinois University and I couldn’t be happier with my choice to come to school here. Starting my junior year here, getting thrown into the National Barrow Show with a group of people I had NEVER met before was the best thing that could happen.
Western has showed me what the Midwest is. From all the corn (which is much different than the views I’m use to at home) and the cold, to absolutely amazing livestock producers within the state. My judging team here was something special. This was the team where I finally realized what determination and drive can do. This last Fall I couldn’t even count the number of hours we put into practicing. We all had some kind of fire in us to be the best. In the end, we finished third overall at Louisville, which to some may not be great. But, for me I’m proud to have been a part of this team. Without our hard work in the Fall and the insight from our coaches, Mark Hoge and Hayden Wilder, we wouldn’t have got where we did, nor grown as individuals like we did.
Livestock judging, as you can tell, has been one of the most influential things in my life and I believe it has helped shaped me into the person I am today. Not only did I gain new friendships, experience incredible places and make connections with successful livestock industry individuals, but along the way I learned life lessons that I will always remember. Being able to move from California to Oklahoma, and now Illinois, has honestly opened up so many doors for me in terms of connections with people across the country alone. With that said, I just to say thank you to everyone that has had an impact on me from this point on.
Hi, my name is Mikaela Fringer and I am originally from Madera, California. I’m currently a senior at Western Illinois University, with plans of graduating in May with a major in Ag Science with an emphasis in Ag Business and an option of Animal Science. I have a passion for the Agriculture and Livestock industry and I can’t wait to further travel and experience International Ag!
Hope you enjoyed the blog, thank you for reading!