University of Missouri Extension

G2952, Reviewed February 1995

Livestock Judging Techniques

Jerry Lipsey
Department of Animal Sciences

Livestock judging consists of carefully analyzing animals and measuring them against a standard that is commonly accepted as being ideal. Livestock judging also has been defined as a study of the relationship between an animal's form and function.

There are numerous benefits to gain from competing on a livestock evaluation team. In the course of training and competition you are given the opportunity to interact with future leaders of the livestock industry. You develop a keen sense of judgment and confidence to make a decision that you defend in a set of oral reasons. Most prominent livestock people who are masters of judgment and selection have been affected by their involvement with livestock judging.

Participation in livestock judging builds your character and makes you a more complete person.

"Judging instills the confidence in those people who may be timid and humbles those who tend to be conceited." — Harlan Ritchie

Steps to successful livestock judging

Techniques for livestock judging can be broken into four steps:

Tips for competitive livestock judging

Benefits of giving reasons

There are two parts to the format when judging livestock: Placing the livestock and giving oral reasons on your placing. The second part can be the most difficult because you have to convince an official, who has already reached a decision, that your placing is logical whether the official agrees or not. This can be difficult and stressful, so what do you get in return from learning proper reason-giving?

Evaluating a set of reasons

There are several schools of thought concerning oral reasons. The style you choose to express yourself is of little importance. The truly important factors involved in giving an effective set of oral reasons include:

Preparing notes for a contest

Unless you are gifted with an unusual memory, good note taking is a must on reason classes. A stenographer spiral notebook (6 by 8 inch) is a good size to use. Remember that notes are used to help you visualize the animals in the class. Use your notes to refresh your memory of the animals. Avoid memorizing your notes; you should give reasons from a mental image of the animals rather than memorizing the notes.

Helpful hints on note taking

Proper etiquette of oral reasons

Once you have developed a proper reason style, it is important to present them properly to the official. When you walk into the reasons room, the way you present yourself may be almost as important as what you have to tell the official. This is why proper etiquette is of utmost importance when delivering a set of reasons. Important things to keep in mind when you get ready to give a set of reasons include:

Reason format

The ability to give effective reasons is an important quality for a good livestock judge. Many factors influence the effectiveness of your reasons. However, unless reasons are presented in a manner that is pleasant to hear and clear and easy to follow, the value of accuracy is largely lost because much that is said does not "get through" to the listener.

By following the traditional format used at MU, you can organize your reasons to cover all the points that were found in the class as well as keep the reasons short enough to remain in the two-minute time limit.

In the following format, we discuss the placing of crossbred market steers. As you can see, each pair is broken into three subsets:

This format allows you to talk about the pairs in a logical order, which makes giving the reasons easier as well as making listening to them easier.

Introduce class
"I placed this class of crossbred market steers 1-2-3-4."

Top pair

Middle pair

Bottom pair

When you are finishing with your last animal, be sure to finish strong with a closing statement so the official will know that you are through.

Reason styles

There are three basic styles of reasons used at MU:

Style 1

The more traditional style just discussed gives admissions last within a pair. This style has been used to allow our students to become more comfortable with giving reasons.

"I placed this class of Hampshire Boars 1-2-3-4. In my top pair, I used 1 over 2 as he is a heavier weight, higher performing, more mobile boar. 1 exhibits more natural width through his chest, down his top and through his ham than 2. I will concede that 2 is a trimmer boar as evidenced by less fat deposited through his shoulder pocket, down his top and through his ham seam. 2 also stands squarer on his front legs."

Style 2

The second style used is an alteration of the traditional format. In this style, you present the criticisms of the top animal at the beginning of the first pair. We suggest this style for the more polished reason giver since it deals with different types of transitions that may be unfamiliar to the inexperienced individual.

Introduce class
"I aligned this class of heavy structured Hampshire Boars 1-2-3."

Top pair

Style 3

The third style is a combination of the previous two. It incorporates the criticisms of the animal in the opening sentences but leads off with a positive statement.

Introduce class
"I liked the Suffolk Breeding Ewes 1-2-3-4."

Top pair

Middle pair

Bottom pair

With the second and third reason styles, do not let repetition slip into your format. They will be quite effective if used properly.

Words and phrases to avoid

Young cattle producers will be faced with selection decisions that affect their profitability. They should use all information available, including performance data. Evaluation through performance records and visual appraisal better prepares students for realistic selection decisions. A cattle producer using performance information is like any successful business owner who uses the most accurate inputs possible to make economically sound decisions. Judging decisions are always controversial. The goal is to make a sound, defensible decision based on fact and to learn from the judging exercise how to improve cattle production through selection.

G2952 Livestock Judging Techniques | University of Missouri Extension

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