Livestock judging helps youth improve local herds

youth smiling with plaques
Top 10 High Individuals- Senior Division: From left to right (Bottom: Waylon Paulek, High Individual Overall; Morgan Richardson, 2nd High Individual Overall; Kade Boatman, 3rd High Individual Overall; Preston Rhode, 4th High Individual Overall; Cole Paulek, 5th High Individual Overall. Top: Karly Reel, 6th High Individual Overall; Kendall Boatman, 7th High Individual Overall; Paige Lemenager, 8th High Individual Overall; Slone Windish, 9th High Individual Overall; Audrey Curtin, 10th High Individual Overall.)

URBANA, Ill. – Illinois 4-H members headed to the showring for the 2022 State Livestock Judging Contest held at the University of Illinois campus on June 20. Instead of leading animals, these young members were acting as judge, evaluating groupings of cattle, hogs, and sheep against a standard for breed characteristics, physical conformation and structure, and gain efficiency.

“The contest teaches evaluation skills the livestock stewards can take back to their own herds to improve efficiency and performance,” says Dan Jennings, University of Illinois Extension 4-H animal science educator.

While the focus of the program is livestock, youth learn and develop many different skills throughout the program.

“It’s a great way to get more involved in the livestock industry and learn more about the livestock that you might be showing or just involved with,” says participant Conley Shick of Dewitt County. “It’s also a great way to get out and meet new people and have new opportunities.”

Team coaches help teach technical judging skills, and positive youth development is also a continued focus during the year-round preparation.

“Throughout the year I have pigs, raise pigs, and show pigs. So, we do a lot with them, and I am around livestock a lot and practicing with them,” says participant Lane Beyers of Ford County. “Just getting myself ready for contests and we have practices throughout the judging season as well to prepare.”

For any youth considering getting into livestock judging events or new to the field, participant Morgan Richardson of Boone County offers this advice. “Go for it. As long as you have been involved in the livestock industry or maybe been to shows, or even if you haven’t gone to any shows I think it’s a really great opportunity and the people you meet is well worth it.”

Members of the State 4-H livestock team will advance to national competition at the North American International Livestock Expo in November. Members of that team will be selected in additional tryouts this summer.

The results of the 2022 Illinois 4-H Livestock Judging Contest include:

Junior Division Top 10 Individuals: Hunter Shike, Champaign County, first place; Sage Mahler, LaSalle County, second place; Hannah Rustmeyer, Livingston/McLean/Woodford Counties, third place; Paige Glander, Boone County, fourth place; Paisley Shick, DeWitt County, fifth place; Maci Brooke, Warren County, sixth place; Mabrey Shick, DeWitt County, seventh place; Ella Eathington, Fulton County, eighth place; Payton May, Christian County, ninth place; and Brant Hedden, Christian County, tenth place.

Junior Division High Team Overall: Fulton County 4-H, first place; Warren County 4-H, second place; Livingston/McLean/Woodford Counties 4-H, third place; Boone County 4-H, fourth place; and LaSalle County 4-H, fifth place.

Senior Division Top 10 Individuals: Waylon Paulek, Christian County, first place; Morgan Richardson, Boone County, second place; Kade Boatman, Boone County, third place; Preston Rhode, Livingston/McLean/Woodford counties, fourth place; Cole Paulek, Christian County, fifth place; Karly Reel, LaSalle County, sixth place; Kendall Boatman, Boone County, seventh place; Paige Lemenager, Livingston/McLean/Woodford counties, eighth place; Slone Windish, Henry-Stark County, ninth place; and Audrey Curtin, Christian County, tenth place.

Senior Division High Team Overall: Christian County #1 4-H, first place; LaSalle County 4-H, second place; Henry-Stark County 4-H, third place; Henderson-Warren County 4-H, fourth place; and Christian County #2 4-H, fifth place.

The Illinois 4-H Foundation and Illinois Farm Bureau supports livestock judging teams participating in national competition. The following producers provided support for this year’s competition: Can Am Cattle Company, University of Illinois Beef Farm, Edenburn Family Farm, Brad Homann and Family, Myerscough Farms, Hummel Livestock, Hi Point Genetics, and Taylor Made Genetics.

Source: Dan Jennings, 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator, Animal Systems,

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office,

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.