Executive Vice President
It was our family’s pleasure last week to host 4-H and FFA livestock judging teams from Burleigh, Morton and Oliver Counties at the ranch for a live-animal judging workout in preparation for the upcoming judging season. It is a chance each year for new judgers to get the feel for a real judging contest and for the more seasoned ones to “get the rust off” before the competition heats up at contests across the state. It is fun for us to continue to be a part of the judging experience that meant so much to us as children and to watch this generation’s judgers learn and grow from year to year.
I remember going to the same pre-season judging workout at the Tokach Angus Ranch each December growing up. It was a fun way to get in the right mindset, refresh your judging skills and kick off the season. The reward for getting through the classes and those first sets of rust-filled reasons was a cup of hot cocoa and one of Theresa Tokach’s amazing homemade brownies.
Those brownies would have been reward enough, but I came away from my judging career with many other rewards as well.
I was fortunate to have some talented and committed teammates, as well as a trio of dedicated judging coaches in Jackie Buckley, Richard C. Tokach and Dwight Keller, who pushed us, encouraged us and celebrated our achievements. We worked hard, practicing for several hours every Monday night at 7 p.m., and were lucky enough to bring home some trophies and ribbons over the years.
Those were nice, but the kind of rewards that are the most meaningful today are not the boxes of satin ribbons and plaques stashed in the attic. They are the intangible ones — the life skills we learned traveling across the state weekend after weekend with a steno notebook tucked in the back of our jeans.
Decision-making is certainly one of the important life skills that is enhanced through livestock judging. In those 15-minute intervals, I learned how to analyze and discern animals’ features and make a decision how the classes should be placed.
I tend to be a slower, more methodical decision-maker than some, but I learned to expedite the process and manage my time better from experiences hearing, “Mark your cards!” announced over the loud speaker when I was still figuring out which sheep was which as the quad circled around their pen.
Of course, oral reasons were good practice for my public speaking responsibilities as an adult. If you can get over the jitters of giving a two-and-a-halfminute memorized speech about why your way of placing is the right way to an intimidating adult in a coat closet or a locker room alongside your peers, testifying at the legislature and doing media interviews seem pretty minor in comparison.
Livestock judging also helped me learn the value of teamwork. My teammates and I worked together to perfect our reasons and our evaluation skills.
We supported one another when someone had a bad day and celebrated with one another when someone had a great day. We laughed together, cried together, lamented over difficult swine classes together, ate bushels of convenience-store junk food together and forged friendships that are just as strong still today.
So, best wishes to all the 4-H and FFA livestock judging teams this season.
May your classes be placable, your reasons come from the heart and your experience be as rich as it was for me many moons ago.