Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.

Maryland

To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

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photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. Maryland.gov will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. Maryland.gov will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.

Illinois

Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

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photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.

Sources:  http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/agri.html

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=ILLINOIS

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There is No “I” in Team

 

Growing up on the farm, I always knew I was different. I drew pictures in class of cows having babies, wrote stories about helping my dad haul manure, and explained in detail to the other kids about where that lunchroom cheeseburger came from. Oh my poor elementary school teachers trying to understand what type of child my parents were raising. Yet that’s just it, growing up in agriculture or more simply on a farm, we are different. Not in how we look, how we dress (unless it is our dirty work clothes), or how we act, but it runs much deeper in the lifestyle we live.

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It was always hard to explain to my high school best friends that no I could not come over at 7 pm to eat supper and hang out. I tried every excuse in the book at first, but then, I started to realize that I was proud of what I was doing. 7 in the evening was when I started rinsing heifers. They could not be turned out until at least 9 pm when the sun went down. Yes I could make the late night bonfires but I was always the first to go home, because there was a to-do list with my name at the top for tomorrow. From hauling hay, to mowing the grass, to running seed around to help dad in the fields, there was never a shortage of work. Being 21 now, I enjoy social events just as much as any other student, but there is not a free weekend I have spent at school because there are too many jobs at home that need to get done and it is not only a family affair, but a team effort.

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Collegiate Livestock Judging, attending national livestock shows, and merely attending three full years of college in the agriculture divisions at both Lake Land Junior College and Western Illinois University, have shown me how close the agriculture community is. I became very good friends with a girl at LLC whose dad happened to go there some 30 years previous with my dad. One of my dad’s former teachers was a substitute professor and allowed me the opportunity to work on his cattle. Most recently, we had a guest speaker in my agronomy class who is a professor at Mississippi State. He and Dr. Bernards, my professor, knew each other when they both were getting their masters, one at Purdue and one at Michigan State. Now basic geography tells us, these schools are not close together, but conferences brought them both together as they had similar interests, and to this day they bounce ideas and information off of one another.

Many professions claim to be very close through constantly seeing similar patients, meetings or seminars that they see each other once a month at, or maybe they talk every day at the office. Agriculture though runs much deeper than just a conversation. The passion it takes to put everything you have on the line on a daily basis is something anyone outside the industry may never understand. It takes long days, sleepless nights, and constantly praying mother nature and the markets go in your favor to be able to have the funding needed to buy the newer piece of equipment, that next semi load of livestock, or another 100 acres of land to help next year be even more prosperous.

The industry is not just those farmers and ranchers out in the fields. It includes the insurance agent that helps fund the purchase of a year’s worth of seed. The trucker who hauls milk to and from the farms to be processed. All the way to the grain elevator in charge of storing and purchasing the end products. There is trust and honesty needed in these relationships to keep an oiled running machine that is constantly running.

We in agriculture need to remember to all stand together. As an industry we have been more and more in the spotlight and not for the positive reasons we should be. Many are criticizing the way things are done because they believe false videos, incomplete information, and the newest trends that make people become highly opposed to what agriculture is doing in the ways of trying to feed, clothe, and allow variety to a constantly growing world. Standing together as agriculture enthusiasts to highlight the truth on one of the closest and most important industries that exists, (we do feed people more than three times per day), is a necessity to speak out on our behalf.

The recent wildfires that destroyed thousands of acres, homes, and took the lives of many livestock and humans, have brought out the best in ag. From sending fencing supplies, precious hay bales, or sending man power to help get the challenging jobs done, we will always rise above. It is a team effort to pull through and move ahead even through hard times. In agriculture, you are never truly alone because your neighbors are always there and ready to help. There is never a day to rest, feel sorry for ourselves, or try to solve the world’s problems, but there is always time to be thankful, feel blessed, and appreciate the many opportunities, close relationships, and people agriculture brings together.

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My name is Olivia Claire and I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University. I have a passion for showing cattle, livestock judging, and anything to do with working outside. This farm girl just so happens to also be a fair queen promoting agriculture! I attended Lake Land College where I received my Associates in Science. I now am working towards a Bachelors in Agriculture Science with a minor in Agronomy, Agriculture Business, and Animal Science. It is truly an honor and great experience being part of Leatherneck Nation!

 

How the sheep industry has helped me

The sheep industry is something that runs deep in my blood, two generations on both sides of my family to be exact. It has been what I have grown up with and all that I have known for as long as I could remember. It all started in a small town in Ohio where my family I and raised around 100 registered Hampshire and Rambouillet breeding sheep. Now I am co-owner of HC Show Stock where we run around 85 Southdown and crossbred sheep. As a young kid, I spent most of my time in the barn or on the road traveling to shows all over the country to show competitively, and to this day that hasn’t changed. It amazes me how the sheep industry has had a direct impact on the person I am today and the tendencies and connections I have gained from it is what will allow me to be successful in life. If I were to name off all that I have gained from being involved with the sheep then it would take all day so I am going to focus on the main three: mentors, opportunities, and family.

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Photo from Marjie Canfield

1. Mentors to most kids are athletes or famous people. For me it was industry leaders and I was lucky enough to live close to Mike Stitzlein. Mike is the owner of Stitzlein club lambs and he runs around 300 ewes and has been a family friend since we started showing sheep. He has played a huge role in my success as an exhibitor as well as young producer looking to start a flock and pursue a dream. The valuable knowledge Mike has shared with me I will remember forever and apply it to day to day sheep production. If you’re new to the sheep industry and looking to get started I highly recommend searching out an industry leader to see if they will take you under their wing.

2. The opportunities that I have gained from the sheep industry have without a doubt led me to where I am today. My junior and senior year of high school I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for Sloan Club Lambs out of Shelby, Ohio. The first winter we lambed out around 125 ewes and that was the best experience I could have asked for. In my opinion hands on experience is best and the more ewes I could lamb out the better sheep producer I could become. Sloan’s also played a huge role in my success as an exhibitor and it was through them that I got to meet Craig Beckmier who would later become my livestock judging coach at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois. I attended Lincoln Land for two years where I received my degree in Ag Business and was a member of the nationally competitive livestock team. Over these two years I spent a lot of time and rode many miles with Craig and have made many memories and became a better evaluator. After leaving Lincoln Land in the spring of 2015 I went on to attend Western Illinois University to get my Bachelors in Ag Business and compete on the judging team under Mark Hoge. The experiences and knowledge I have gained from Mark and Western Illinois will last a lifetime. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to learn from two of the most sought out judges in the nation who without a doubt focus on winning judging contests but more importantly making sure you can evaluate more than just four animals in a ring and go on and be viable within an industry.

3. The most valuable asset the sheep industry has given me is a family and more than just blood relation. At a young age I went through the tragedy of losing my father and that was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through in my life. Luckily the people I have met through showing and raising sheep, as well as my immediate family, were there for me and helped me get through that difficult time. I am truly spoiled with the amount of close friends that I have gained over the years and I know that if I were stranded somewhere alongside the road or was in a bad spot and needed help, I have a long list of people I could call all over the country. That’s the greatest thing about all livestock industries the people you get to meet and the friendships you gain that will truly last a life time.

No words will ever describe how thankful I am for being raised in the sheep industry. It has made me into the person I am today and it will continue to play a big role in the success I hope to have in my life. I hope to give back to the youth just as the people listed above have done for me. As you have read this I’m sure you can tell my experience’s have been mainly associated with sheep, however I hope you know mentors, opportunities, and family are abundant in every aspect of the livestock industry.

Senior Pic
Photo from Maurer Photography

Hello, I am Adam Heffelfinger and I am a senior at Western Illinois Univeristy. I’m originally from Ashland, Ohio, where I grew up raising and showing sheep. I am an active member of the Hoof ‘n’ Horn Club and also a member of the Livestock Judging team.

 

5 Tips for Marketing and Photographing Livestock

This time of year is a very exciting season for livestock producers.  Breeding decisions that were made months ago are finally paying off.  With that excitement comes possibly the most challenging portion.  Marketing and photoing.  Many people dread this activity, but when properly utilized it can be the difference in selling them high or sending them to the sale barn.

  1. Brand Management –  This is something that starts long before breeding season. Building a brand can be challenging.  Adam Crouch, a marketing specialist for Sunglo Feeds, had a few tips and tricks for branding.  He said that you should always make sure that your brand matches who you are marketing to. This means that it should be appealing and professional. At the same time, if you are marketing livestock make sure the color scheme and design will match what livestock producers want.  Your brand should be clean, easy to identify and have a clear message.  For example, check out how Sunglo has branded their products.sunglo
  2. Promotion – This step is all about establishing your brand.  Crouch went on to say that it is important to put your brand everywhere. Sweatshirts, hats, t-shirts, signs, and profile pictures are all great places to advertise.  People are constantly wearing clothes so utilize them as walking billboards.
  3. Preparation – This is a bit more of the brass tacks of marketing and picturing.  Across species this step will often vary.  Regardless, it is important to train your livestock so that it is not a foreign concept for them to be prepared to take an incredible picture.  This includes washing and making sure skin and hair are near show day ready.  You can use sweets to make sure pigs are familiar with tools you will use to picture.  Ben Bobell of Bobell Farms suggest washing at least every other day and hanging towels with marshmallow cream so pigs are used to chewing on things that you could use to picture.  With sheep it is important that they are trained to brace and drive and that their legs are blown out and well groomed.
  4. Picturing – The day everyone dreads is here!!!  Time to picture livestock, some people believe that this is the worst part of selling livestock.  A recent alum, David Korb, went as far to say that his “personal sanity and safety could be harmed through picturing pigs.”  The fact that animals aren’t always cooperative, and the patience it takes to get the livestock looking their best are what makes this activity so despicable.  That being said, with the right preparation, this day can go rather smoothly.  According to James Thompson, a WIU alum who now owns Thompson Livestock, “Lighting is the most important aspect of livestock photography.”  Setting up an appropriate background and getting the right lighting can take your livestock photography from zero to hero.  Thompson went on to say that natural lighting is best but you can ruin good pictures by having too much sunlight or too overcast of sky.  Angles also play a key role.  In pictures, livestock often look flat and narrow from a direct side profile.  If you can picture at a slight 3/4 angle,  you will maximize your customers ability to read the livestock.  Picturing can be a long tiring process, but with the right preparation you can make the process a snap.
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    A sheep that sold in Thompson Livestock’s Spring sale last March. You can see an attractive background, yet the angle still allows you to read the sheep.  This wether went on to be a class winner at the Iowa State Fair.

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    Here’s a picture of a Yorkshire barrow that was taken at Bobell Farms.  He is clean, well presented, and the picture was taken at an angle that allows the viewer to see the pig has shape and dimension.
  5. Sharing – This is the last step but it may be the most important.  Taking pictures is awesome, but if no one see’s them they are useless.  Promote. Promote. Promote.  Put the pictures on Facebook.  Share. Share. Share. Make entertaining write-ups that people want to read.  Take pictures and put them out the interweb so people want to come look at your livestock!!

While these are not in a particular order for how they should go, they are essential steps in insuring that people know about the livestock that you will be marketing.  It is important to be honest and make sure to use your resources to develop these activities!

Will Taylor is student at Western Illinois University.  He is active in the Hoof ‘n’ Club, a member of the Livestock Judging Team, and enjoys working at the school farm.

To learn more about Western Illinois University and the livestock brand that we are building, check out our Facebook page. Leatherneck Livestock.

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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.

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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.

Passionate or Crazy?

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.  

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2015-2016 Judging Team

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.

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Senior Judging Team

Be sure to stay updated on the judging team by liking  WIU Livestock Judging page on Facebook!

 

13227031_10208478804999365_2771315788805244815_n.jpgMy 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.

Lifetime Gifts Gained For The Sacrafices Made

logoI have been asked more times than I can count what it means to be on a livestock judging team. I could always formulate and answer, so at least they could act like they understood. However, it took exactly one calendar year to actually know what it means to be a part of a livestock judging team.

Being on judging team is not for the weak. There are many sacrifices that are to be made in order to give it your all. Many will compare being on a livestock judging team to collegiate sports, and in some ways they are correct. However, where we differ from dribbling a ball, kicking a field goal, or hitting a homerun is we never stop. “There is no rest for the wicked” is a motto that the Western Illinois Judging team lives by, and that is where what we do becomes so hard to understand. There are many sacrifices that are made for the gifts that are to be gained.

SLEEP

Livestock judging team members are not the average college student. Not only are they incredibly competent livestock evaluators, but they are also outstanding students. In fact former team member Katie Lewis is actually graduating a semester early in December of 2015. She is a 3.6 GPA student and will graduate with honors with a Bachelor degree in Agriculture Science with a minor in Agronomy. This is far beyond being great at multitasking. Those eight hours of sleep that is recommended are hard to obtain if you are on the WIU livestock judging team. Not only do you get up before the sun to crawl in a dirty, pungent smelling van with ten other people, but most homework is completed either late at night in hotel rooms, or in the school van while on the road. I cannot tell you the amount of times we drove through the night to get to our next destination. I cannot tell you the amount of times we ran on fewer than three hours of sleep just to do what we love, but most importantly I cannot tell you the amount of time I laughed until I cried.

TIME AWAY FROM HOME

It comes to no surprise the members of this years judging team come from a very strong livestock and farming background from all over the nation. Anywhere from cattle, sheep, hogs, or grain. Those that can relate no how hard it is to be away from home while babies are hitting the ground, or even when the crops are being taken out of the fields. After discussing some things with my teammates I came to the consensus that the hardest sacrifice made was time spent away from home. Hank LeVan, a stockman from Woodstock, Ohio says it best. “The hardest thing to give up to be on the team was the time spent away from home. However, that takes me to my next point, it was totally worth it. The memories made and the knowledge gained are both irreplaceable.” It is not very often we get to travel home and see our families. In fact Brenen Diesen stated in a Facebook status,” I can see my family for the first time since July.”

PERSONAL TIME

Some may think that this is not really a big thing to let go of, but until they drive 2,000 miles across the country in six days they do not realize how valuable personal space can become. For an entire year I crawled in the judging van, and spent countless hours with the same ten people. There is no doubt we have stories and memories that will forever remain trapped inside the doors of the van, but it also comes to no surprise that by the end of those trips we needed our space. One of Hank LeVan’s fondest memories was the very first van ride with the team, ” Awkward, and segregated on the way to our very first workout. But by the time we made it back to Macomb everyone was engaged in conversation and probably knew too much about each other.” For the girls, you can forget about your personal mirror time. Instead you are forced to share with at least two other girls, and that can become difficult with only one mirror.

Although there are sacrifices to be made the list of positives far exceed the negatives. As my collegiate judging career came to an end on November 16, 2015 at the North American International Livestock Exposition I reflected on my experience the past five years being a competitor, and I could not hold back my emotions. I can not wrap up into one blog post about what and incredible journey it was been. It was nothing short of extraordinary. I struggle to put words together on just how amazing it has been, so I will leave it to a few of my teammates. Hank- “Being on the team gave me an opportunity to work with great people who are similar to myself. Driven, passionate, and relentless to be nothing but the best. My time in the van will always have a special place in my heart.” Brenen- “At the end of the day, the banners will fade and the buckles will tarnish, but the relationships we have built will last a lifetime.”

This post was not easy for me to put together, but now that I have gathered my composure I would like to add a final few thoughts. At times I may have wanted to strangle a few of you, but there is not a single dollar amount that I would trade any of you or memories for. I cannot even begin to thank not only my teammates for being the coolest most competent stock people, but I could not have grown into the person I am today boardwithout all seven of my coaches the past five years.board In the moment we complained about things like the weather, lack of sleep, and loss of free time. However, now that the day has come we stepped out of the pungent smelling van with poor climate control for the final time our lives as we “knew” it has come to a close. The only things we have left to complain about is how bored we are, and how much we miss life on the road with our makeshift family. If I had the opportunity to go back and do it all over again there would be no hesitation. I will cherish each and every one of you, and our memories shared together forever and always.

meMy name is Jennifer Livermore. I am a senior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Science with a minor in Animal Science. I am from Media, Illinois, and grew up on our diverse family farm with 1,500 acres of crop ground, 150 head breeding sheep operation, and 30 head show pig operation. I have a very strong passion for the livestock industry and hope to one day judge major livestock expositions. Being a part of a livestock judging team has been my life my entire college career. My journey started at Lincoln Land Community College where I not only competed for LLCC, but was also a member of the Illinois State 4-H team. I later transferred to WIU to further pursue my dreams. It has been an amazing few years, and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead of me in the future.