Most judging contests have one main focus, but the National Meat Animal Evaluation Contest put together two whole days of challenging classes for students across the country. Kansas State University coach Hyatt Frobose said that the contest really shows students the complete picture of animal production.
"One of the real advantages of this contest is that it forces students to be well versed in a lot of variety," Frobose said. "The main components of this competition are a livestock evaluation division for breeding animals, a live animal predictions for market animals where you're predicting how they look live relative to how their carcass will be in terms of conformation, and then finally a meats division where students go into a meats cooler and the students are evaluating meat quality and muscling."
Texas Tech judging coach and professor Ryan Rathmann said that this contest, more than any other, is a final test to these senior college students before they head out into the agriculture industry into the work force.
"The economic side of it is what I really love about this contest," Rathmann said. "And then from a communications standpoint, they really need to be agricultural ambassadors and be able to go out and vocalize what our production practices are, and that they are safe and that we're producing a safe food supply for them to consume and treating the animals with the welfare practices that are in their best interest."
The participation turnout for the contest was high, with college judging teams and coaches traveling from across the country. Preparing along the way and visiting ag production operations during their trip to Lubbock is all part of the fun.
"We've got about 15 different universities represented from Florida to Wisconsin, from Kansas and Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, so just a lot of different students that are competing. About 140 students are competing," Rathmann said.
"We've got eight students here this year. We've been on the road since last Wednesday night working out and preparing for this competition, working out in western Kansas and all the way down into the panhandle of Texas," Frobose said. "So I'd say that we've traveled a good distance and had a good road trip, but we're learning a lot in the process."
This was the first year for Texas Tech to host the prestigious contest. And Rathmann said that it was a true privilege to watch local breeders and industry experts come together to put on an exceptional contest.
"There's a lot of preparation that goes into organizing the contest as far as hosting it. Like I said, it's the first time we've ever hosted it," Rathmann said. "We're really honored to be able to host the contest and we have Dr. Jackson and Dr. Miller, two professors here in Animal Science that were the main leaders in terms of superintendents of the contest and then we've had a lot of great people underneath them that are organizing the different events, local breeders in the area, extension county agents, and we really appreciate all of them."
Students were required to evaluate three species during the contest; cattle, swine, and sheep, as market livestock, breeding stock, and in the meat cooler.