4-H Life: Cattle Judgment
There are more events to participate in with 4-H than you can do. The judgment of cattle is just one of them, and it is serious business. Children learn to assess animals, from steers to heifers, and from lambs to goats to pigs.
It’s a Sunday at 3 p.m., a time when most children are watching a video game or playing outside. For 22 kids at 4-H in Runnels County, it’s cattle assessment time for the next 90 minutes.
Marty Vahlenkamp is the Agrilfe Extension Officer for Runnels County. Local breeder, Marty Gibbs, assists the class. The two Martys are a dynamic team because they keep the children in tune. Vahlenkamp says there are field trips in addition to class time, “In class we will be showing 4 animals on video and the kids can rank it. When we go to the farms we also judge 4 animals by the times. They have different ‘a-ha’ moments. For some it may be in class, for others it may be in contests. “
Vahlenkamp says judging cattle is not a simple event: “There are no perfect animals. At the competitions, there is a committee of 5 or 6 people who judges the animals. You can have 6 different people, who will rank the animals differently, that’s why they have a committee. “Vahlenkamp says the # 1 priority for market animals is muscle,” Then we want to put it in the best packaging possible with regard to the structure. “
Vahlenkamp points out that you are only scratching the surface if you think cattle judgment is pretty much, well, cattle judgment, “We spend a tremendous amount of time on decision making, public speaking. and the reasons. We use animals to teach children about decision making, which helps them throughout their lives. “
These reasons are exactly what the name implies; reasons why each child has put the animals in a given order. They should describe the positive and negative points of each animal: “We visit breeding farms with these children. They know the good sides of animals and they know the flaws. “said Vahlencamp.
Vahlenkamp points out that the program is also about mentoring: “The older children help the younger ones. They pass on their experiences and knowledge to the youngest. In competitions, we will pair younger children with older children to help them. “
Aspects of decision-making and public speaking build children’s confidence, skills that will help them throughout their lives.
Two of the program’s older kids, Trevor Gibbs and Ben Flanagan, talk about what the program has meant to them over the years. Both have been in the program since year 3. The two young men are in high school; Gibbs is senior and Flanagan is junior.
Gibbs comments on the reasons and aspects of public speaking: “Judging is to find the best animal in the group of 4. You have to find insight into your reasons and come up with sentences and words that flow and have a meaning. impact on judges. . “
Flanagan says he thinks the most important aspect is to “make a decision and stick to it. You need to take quick notes because you only have 8 minutes to write down your reasons.”
Gibbs adds, “It’s a lot of decision making. You have to make a decision in the time you have available. It is also time management. Overall, you have a total of 12 minutes to sit in front of this class (of animals) to make your decision and write your notes. You rank them at 1, 2, 3 or 4. The process involves a lot of time management. We try to help the younger ones with tips and advice. “
Confidence is essential, as Gibbs points out, “You have to be confident. As soon as you make a decision, you have to go for it. In the reasons room, you must speak to the judges. Different races and different species have different vocabulary. If you are judging pigs, you want terms that strike you. There are a lot of variables that come into play. “
According to Flanagan, it’s not just about talking about your reasons: “Your body posture, the speed at which you speak, it all builds confidence. You don’t want to appear before the judges without confidence. Judging cattle teaches many life lessons. “
Speaking of confidence, she’s not lacking in class. There are 22 children sitting quietly on chairs at a table and around the classroom. Vahlenkamp stands in front of the class as Marty Gibbs plays a video that shows 4 cattle. There is very little discussion as the children study the video to rank each animal. When the time is up, Gibbs pauses the video. Vahlenkamp explains what each animal has been classified to. He asks each child what they classified the animal and their reasons. Trevor Gibbs disagrees with the class rating given to them, presenting his Reasons for classifying animals differently. He is adamant as a heated discussion ensues. It’s not an argument, it’s a discussion with children encouraged to express their opinions.
It is a classroom where a culture of learning has been established, with each child free to disagree and discuss any aspect of cattle judging. They are encouraged to express their opinions. The atmosphere is easy, but the learning is serious because discussions follow each presentation.
Marty Gibbs plays another video of 4 Cattle as Vahlenkamp walks around the classroom as the children take notes. Everyone’s attention is on the screen, looking at every aspect of each animal. Silence envelops the room. Young children and older children write their notes and their reasons.
After the video is finished, Marty Gibbs asks the class, “Which steer was brown? Which steer is the most muscular? Which one has the least fat? Which one has the poorest bone structure? Which one had arched legs? Which one was the bald one? Which one had the fewest bones? The children go through their notes as they answer his questions. Attention to detail is a must. No aspect of the process is overlooked.
Gibbs tells the children what each animal has been classified for. There are children who disagree. This lively discussion ensued, with each student passionate about why he / she ranked animals where they did. Vahlenkamp says, “Judging cattle is about what you prioritize. There is no 100% correct answer. That is why there are committees. “
Each child stands up and gives their reasons for putting the animals in the order they did. Advice is given to students: “Stand up straight. Stand straight. Put your hands behind your back. Speak with confidence. Speak loudly and speak loudly. “
A child stands up to speak: “I like this class of market steers. I rated them 4,2,1,3.” If they do not speak confidently, if they do not stand up straight, they are asked to speak again after some coaching. The 4-H’er spoke again, more confidence having crept into his voice, “I like this class of market steers. So I ranked 4,2,1,3.”
The classroom is very similar to the Cattle Judgment itself. It favors the good: Learning for the students, in a friendly and positive atmosphere, while reducing errors. This is part of the reason the class is so successful. It is evident that Vahlenkamp is a gifted teacher who connects with each of the 4-Hs.
The 4-Hers took part in the West Texas Fair Livestock Judging competition on Monday, September 20. Each participant judged Performance Brangus Heifers, Angus Heifers, Crossbred Heifers, Market Hogs, Breeding Gilts, Black Faced Ewes, Wether Dams and Breeding Does. In addition, they also received questions regarding Brangus heifers, market pigs and black-faced ewes. There was a review afterwards.
The results of the competition are as follows:
Junior division: Total entries: 29 teams
First of all: White Runnels County 4-H Team; Second: 4-H Runnels County Green Team. The Runnels County 4-H Gold team finished 20th.
White Runnels County 4-H Team: Kaylee scott – 391: Paysley Branham – 377; olivia bean – 374; Kenya Boon – 352. The young girls ranked 1st overall.
4-H Runnels County Green Team: Smithwith Curry – 388; Braden Hoppe – 383; Royce Cook – 354; Dylan Page – 346. The team took 2nd place in the general classification.
Runnels County 4-H Gold Team: Jessica Bean – 391; Jase Scott – 295; Luke Bean – 272; Zayden Boone – 254.