This past weekend, Sept. 28-30, four Jefferson County 4-H members took a nine-hour trip to Grand Island, Nebraska for the AKSARBEN Livestock Judging Competition.
The senior team competed all summer at county, district, regional and state livestock judging events. Their hard work prevailed after winning the state competition, securing their spot at the national competition.
4-H is America’s largest youth development organizations. The organization spans across every county in every state, focusing on developing skills and friendships that will last a lifetime.
One of the most popular 4-H programs are the Career Development Events. Here, students can participate in livestock, dairy and meat evaluation contest. The goal for each participating team is to win state and earn a spot at the national competition in Nebraska.
Jefferson County’s Senior 4-H Livestock Judging team—made up of Danielle Chwala, Alexis Schultz, Trevor Messmer and Colton Klecker—accomplished the goal, in the livestock judging portion.
“I’ve been doing livestock judging for 10 years and I’ve finally made it to AKSARBEN,” says Chwala. “I’m nervous, because I’ve never been to a national competition.”
Livestock judging consists of four main skills including animal evaluation, oral reasons, industry questions and data analysis. Contest participants typically spend eight hours at a competition moving from station to station. Each section receives a score out of 50. A team is allotted four members to contribute to the overall score. There are individual placings awarded, as well.
“The worst part are the reasons,” Chwala says. “We usually have to do three sets, and it’s all memorized.”
This is the second time, in four years, that Jefferson County has had a national livestock judging team. Before that, the county was on a losing streak for 12 years.
“I’m very proud of my team this year and the team that fueled the fire under the county, four years ago,” says Ed Bielinski, Jefferson County livestock judging coach. “These kids have been working so hard, and that’s all I can really ask of them. I’m very proud.”
The team finished the competition in 17 place and a great experience under their belts.
“This was kind of like my last hoorah,” says Schultz. “I’m in college now, so I can’t compete in 4-H anymore. It’s bitter sweet, really.”
Although an unfavorable placing, the team plans to return to competing—apart from Schultz—in hopes of winning state and having a second chance at the AKSARBEN national livestock judging competition.