Howard County’s FFA livestock judging team to represent Md. at Nationals
ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — “The four of us have all grown up around livestock. We know what’s good and what’s not,” said Colby Hough, one of the four members of Howard County’s FFA Livestock Judging Team.
Add in that before their FFA participation, all four members, Hough, Makenzie Hereth, and siblings Kevin and Kelly Spicer, have been participating in 4-H Livestock Judging Competitions since middle school, it didn’t surprise them that the chapter’s first-time team won first place at the Maryland State FFA Livestock Judging Competition held at the Washington County 4-H Fair and Expo in July.
Later this fall, the four will represent Maryland and travel to the FFA National Convention, which is being held this year in Indianapolis, Ind., from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, 2019.
Known as the Livestock Evaluation Career Development Event, team members work both individually and within teams to rank four classes of livestock, including cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.
“Everything is individual during the contest,” said Kelly Spicer, “and then they combine all our scores as a team.
“You’re competing against your team members, because there’s also an individual competition, but you want your team to be successful as well.”
At the state competition, the team members not only judged 6 classes and gave 2 reasons, but also took a written exam on basic animal science practices and basic livestock knowledge.
Hough, Hereth and Spicer all acknowledged that the reasons portion can be the most difficult part of the competition process and each offered their own perspective on doing well during it.
“Be articulate,” Hough said, “and then sound like you know what you’re talking about because you need to sound like a livestock person.”
“It takes good public speaking skills and advocating for your position,” added Hereth.
Because your points are dependent on how close you come to the official committee’s decision, “you need to sound confident,” said Kelly Spicer. “If you’re confident, then you can get your points back in a reason room by persuading the officials this is really how it was, even if they didn’t see it that way.”
Hereth noted that the public speaking skills she’s developed from her participation in livestock judging competitions has really helped her during her reign this past year as Miss Howard County Farm Bureau.
“I got to go to all the middle schools and talk to the students. I really liked the public speaking part of it and would like to go into communications because there’s so much you can do with agriculture and communications.”
Spicer also expressed a desire to stay in the marketing aspect of agriculture.
“I’d like to help market feed supplements or be a consultant for feed operations for livestock to help them make it more efficient for the best outcome,” she said.
Her brother, Kevin, and Hough, both of whom graduated from high school this past May, have also earned significant accomplishments from their participation in livestock judging competitions, including scholarships to attend two-year agricultural community colleges in Illinois.
Upon graduating, they both have the option to transfer to a competitive agricultural program at a four-year university, or, as Hough is considering, to move directly into a position in agriculture.
“I’m going to be studying agriculture communications and business,” said Hough. “I really love the photography end of show breeds and it would be great to work with individual farms to help them market their animals.”
Hereth, a high school senior this year along with Kelly Spicer, actually is the newcomer to livestock judging team.
Even though she, along with the other three had been showing livestock through their participation with 4-H, for almost a decade, Hereth only started doing 4-H Livestock Judging Competitions in middle school.
“My mom had us try everything in 4-H to figure what we liked,” said Hereth, “and I found I really liked the Livestock Judging Competition.”
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