“Judge not – that ye be not judged” are right words to live by and should be the motto of every spectator standing at ring-side second-guessing the livestock judge – worse than a “Monday morning quarterback.”

After judging more county fairs than I care to remember and such prestigious shows as the Wisconsin Spring Market Hog Show, the National Barron Show, and the Minnesota State Fair, I’ve realized just how much I owe to the Burke County fair and 4-H.

In college, it was all about winning the coveted ‘’National Sheep Judging” division of the “American Royal” collegiate judging contest in Kansas City. This was an accomplishment that was reminiscent of being on the door-step of where it all began.

The American Royal Livestock Exposition was the inspiration of my family’s interest in livestock. It was near where my Dad was born before migrating to North Dakota. So it was only fitting that it was here that I had symbolically brought our family full-circle – THE WINNERS CIRCLE.

It all started in 4-H, back on that memorable Saturday when I won that regional livestock judging contest. But it was while attending college. That judging became the focal point of who I was.

Everything I did revolve around “livestock judging.” It was here that I met my best friends and was mentored by nationally recognized professors that made a lasting impression upon my life.

After making all of the meat and livestock judging teams and achieving national recognition, I was smitten by the adrenaline flow of being in a livestock arena.
As I pursued a career in the meat and livestock industry, I was soon to apply this knowledge to more than judging. I was teaching others and contributing to livestock selection improvement became entwined in all that I did.

Be it that of a livestock marketing seminar school, or management positions, livestock was always emphasized. It is easier to make money on expensive (high valued) livestock than on cheap (low-valued) animals contributing very little to the bottom line. This philosophy was hard to sell to those who were of the mindset to buy low and sell high; not an evil “rule of thumb,” but it doesn’t apply to livestock.

The “value difference,” as determined by a “trained eye,” can amount to hundreds of dollars per animal, not something to put in the hand of an amateur. Unfortunately, it is the number one cause for failure in the livestock business.

Livestock evaluation was my greatest managerial strength, as I always converted “cost-based marketing” into “value-based marketing.” This not only made the companies I was working for more profitable, but the concept was also passed on to producers – adding to the bottom line.

This is what the “show ring” is supposed o be all about. However, it is more about name and reputation than it is about the value of the animals. Show me the power of influence in the show ring, and I’ll show you a judge that will tum a “blind eye.”

Unfortunately, the judge often knows he’s being judged and is reluctant to do the right thing – for fear of retribution. This sometimes results in the judge being judged more than the livestock.

Being among the judged is even more difficult when your tank is empty and you’re lying in the hospital recovering from surgery. The knee surgery was nothing more than gout but had to be surgically remedied. Any other time this wouldn’t have been an issue, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.

I was scheduled to judge a horse show in northern Wisconsin. Still, I couldn’t get either the doctor’s approval or my brother-in-law’s cooperation.

My doctor said no unless I had a chaperone. My brother-in-law said no. He had just traveled all the way from California to Wisconsin. He wasn’t about to travel any further – even for his favorite brother-in-law. “Favorite” might have been a stretch, and he had no idea about my state of desperation. Had he known that I needed that gig, just to put food on the table, I’m sure he would have complied.

On another occasion, I had to tum down a judging invitation to the Pierce County fair when I was medically impaired. The Pierce County fair is no Burke County fair, but it is now home. It was an honor to be asked – even if it was a last-minute request to cover for another judge who had called in sick. Judges usually don’t call in sick, so this was like adding insult to injury.

My new home-town fair did inadvertently give me judging due-diligence when one of my livestock selections became “grand champion.” This resulted from a “mutual favor” bestowed upon one of the finest farmers (the Rieken family) in Pierce County. They asked me to pick out a small feeder pig for a 4-H project. That pig went on to be a Grand Champion.

This was no small favor, for they returned the discretion of courage with a couple of family auctions. And Ron for forgiven for his indiscretion.

So, Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged.