Anyone who knows a little bit about me and my background knows that I am super passionate about agriculture and animal science. If you do know my background though, you - like everyone in my family - will wonder where that passion came from. Well I'm here to tell you that I really have no idea, but I do know that I connected with animals as a child better than I connect with most kids my age. I loved horses, cattle, dogs, and basically everything but snakes. As a result, I went to college to get a degree in animal science, learned more than I could've ever imagined about agriculture and all the research that goes into it, and am now a huge advocate for our farmers and ranchers.
With all of that being said, I am completely in my element here at the National Western Stock Show because I can watch the judging of some of the best animals in the country!
In case you don't know anything about livestock judging, let me give a brief run down as to what goes into it and what the judges are looking for. Kids from all over the country raise animals from the time the animal is weaned until they're about 6-12 months old. These kids have to be selective as to where they get their animals, what they feed them, what to do if the animal gets sick, and they learn how to groom them and work them. The kids spend countless hours before and after school and on the weekends learning about their animals, learning what's best for the animal, and learning how to train and work with that animal. These animals are pampered! And while that sounds like a lot of effort for a ribbon and maybe a scholarship, it's so much more than that!
The kids that show their animals are learning the value of an animal's life, how much work goes into producing food for our country and the world, and they're creating an amazing work ethic for themselves that will follow them throughout their lives. On top of those qualities, they're helping to raise high quality meat for us to consume. What do I mean by that? Well, after the shows, these kids have the option of selling their animals. These animals can then be be used to reproduce and therefore allow us to build up strong, healthy herds.
So what exactly are the judges looking for in these animals? (Since cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, and other animals can be judged I will go broad with what the judges look for - but please ask me any questions if you want more information on this!) The judges look at the conformation of the animal, if that animal can walk without being bow-legged or knock-kneed, how the muscle shape is on the animal, if they're getting too small or too big, and the overall temperament of the animal. These are all qualities that farmers and ranchers look at when they buy an animal to add to their herd so that you can enjoy delicious, quality foods.
So while livestock showing seems a little unusual and pointless these days, it actually does a lot for keeping us up to date on how we should go about raising our livestock for food and work! It keeps us all in the loop as to what is best for the animal and it keeps our herds healthy and always changing.
If you have any questions on this topic, please reach out to me! I would love to talk to you more about this.
Lots of love,
Dr. Kelly and Dr. Kari