LAMOILLE — For the first time in a long while, the LaMoille FFA has decided to bring back a livestock judging team.
The team formed this past winter after students voiced their wishes to have the opportunity. When FFA advisor Dan Fitzpatrick asked for help, Kevin and Susan Hildebrand stepped up and volunteered as coaches.
This year’s core group consists of six high school students — some with a background in farm animals and a few with no agricultural background whatsoever.
For a first-year team, the group has had quite a successful year at area competitions.
Their biggest accomplishment was taking fourth place at the sectional competition on March 22 in Mt. Carroll. The team was proud taking home a ribbon, which their coach, Kevin, is already displaying.
“As a livestock judging coach, I’m proud of this team,” he said. “We hang (our ribbon) on the wall where (the school) keeps their trophies.”
Talking with the students about this endeavor, the enthusiasm and seriousness of the sport shines through. They all want to talk about the competitions and the tips they’ve learn from their coach during practices.
Senior Anthony Lovgren said he joined the team because his family was once part of the livestock judging team at LaMoille, and he wanted to carry on the family tradition.
Senior Ben Hosto, however, said he joined because it wasn’t a family thing in his case.
“I didn’t grow up on a farm, so I’m learning pretty much everything there is to learn,” he said.
All students have their own reasons for joining, but when it all comes down to it, the real reason for joining was to get a better grasp on the animals.
In a livestock judging competition, teams study and analyze beef cattle, swine, market sheep and meat goats.
Hildebrand explained individuals start out by placing each animal in a class. Then, each teammate has to orally justify their decision with facts. The teammate must go through different steps and processes to arrive at their decision. The top three scores of the team members are counted to determine an overall team score.
In order to study and prepare for a competition, the team gets together and covers the species and qualities of each animal.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Hildebrand said she enjoys this because it gives her the opportunity to learn more about animals she doesn’t know much about.
“I’m a beef background, and I didn’t know much about goats, sheep or pigs, really. It’s fun learning about the different qualities of each animal,” she said.
Competitions give students knowledge, experience and an opportunity to meet fellow FFA students from area schools. Right now, the teammates are working hard to get their fellow classmates to join in on the fun.
“Most of us are seniors and won’t be here next year, so we’re trying to push people to keep it going and see where it will go. But it’s hard getting kids to commit,” Lovgren explained. “I’m just happy to see it come back because this kind of thing is starting to die out. Every year you are seeing less and less people joining 4-H and FFA. It’s really unfortunate.”
Senior David Dickey explained how it’s important to get kids interested in farming and learning about farm animals, especially in a rural community.
“We’re serious about this, and we’re bringing back stuff to show for it,” he said, pointing to the team’s ribbon they received at their most recent competition.
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