Judging livestock has been in my genes from the time of winning a regional 4-H judging contest at the age of 10 to being on the NDSU Livestock Judging Team. I’ve been involved in judging ever since, and have gained a great deal of self-satisfaction from helping to guide youngsters to the winners circle. 

Much of my interest in judging was fueled by my father, who always insisted that I select my own calves, and be responsible for the outcome in the show ring. This produced nine grand-champion steers during my formative 4-H years, and instilled a spirit of competition that has been the basis of my involvement ever since.
To have to walk into a pen full of calves and pick out the steer that has the most potential, can be a daunting experience—even more so when it involves a little horse-trading. I traded a baby colt for my rst baby calf. Emotions can run high when you have to give up your favorite pet for a bawling calf that doesn’t want to leave her momma.
But, as important as selection is to the judging process, feeding, grooming, and showing becomes equally as challenging to the ful llment of the entire project.
Perhaps the most gratifying part of my livestock judging experiences has been that of learning to give reasons. Learning how to express one-self in a meaningful manner has served me well in my profession as well as my personal life. Every child should be taught the art of public speaking, clari cation, and expression of thought.
Traveling with the livestock judging teams to national livestock judging shows was of greater value to me than all other academics combined. Competing at the collegiate level in national competition was an adrenaline high that can’t be compared to that of any other kind of participation.
Not only were the awards of signi cant importance, but also the fraternization among my peers has resulted in lifetime relationships that have paid dividends far beyond that of the show-ring.
Livestock judging is as much about people skills and communication as it is about livestock. A lesson learned that far exceeds the livestock arena.
I’m grateful the opportunities I’ve had to share in such a rewarding life experience!
The heart of a judge becomes more visible than that which is exposed under the hide of a steer.

Read also: County Fair Livestock Judges: the Litmus Test

"PONY TALES by" Ponty is written by Ken E. Knight, the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in the "Farm And Livestock Directory" every month.