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 lots of self-satisfaction from helping to guide youngsters to the winner’s circle.

Much of my interest in judging was fueled by my father, who always insisted that I select my calves along with the responsibility 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.

Walking into a pen full of calves and picking 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 first 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 mamma.

But, as important as the selection is to the judging process, feeding, grooming, and showing become equally as challenging to the fulfillment of the entire project.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of my livestock judging experiences has been of learning to give reasons. Learning how to express oneself 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, clarification, 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.

It wasn’t just the awards that were of significant importance; 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.