The Routt County 4-H livestock judging team is teaching young people with an interest in agriculture essential knowledge of the industry and helping them build confidence in themselves.
There are two 4-H livestock judging teams in Routt County: the senior division for those 14 and older and the junior division for those younger than 14.
In the competitions, each team member judges 40 animals: swine, sheep and cattle, for quality and potential carcass yield. Each child must identify what they like or dislike in the animal, judge it, and then give their reasoning to the judges.
The judges score the young ranchers on their opinions and the clarity of their presentations.
First-year coach Crystal Fisher and second-year coach Rod Wille volunteer to work with the children each week on identifying healthy livestock and articulating the reason an animal is judged a certain way.
Wille said public speaking is a tool the 4-H members will use in the future, no matter what career they choose.
"The main thing is when they give their reasons they have to defend their position and opinions," he said.
Wille was on the team when he was growing up in Routt County and credits the experience to his confidence and ability to express himself verbally.
"It really helped develop my personality," he said. "Personally, I think it's the best project you can be in with 4-H."
The overnight trips to competitions also are a good experiences for the children, Wille added.
Since the teams started practicing early in the year and have traveled to three competitions, the coaches have seen the team members' significant dedication pay off in their improved knowledge of the animals, their verbal skills and conviction of their opinions.
"They've come a long way," Wille said. "I'm amazed."
4-H livestock judging teams have been in Routt County for more than 20 years, but this year's teams are especially dedicated to being serious competitors even though this is the first year for many members.
"This year we've really gotten serious about it," Wille said.
It has showed in the results from the three competitions.
At their first test against other 4-H teams on April 1 in Adams County, the junior team placed 11th out of 22 teams. Heather Wilhelm won the cattle portion of the contest and Courtney Long finished 19th overall.
At the next competition, on April 22 in Elbert County, the junior team again showed well, placing 15th out of 32 teams. In beef, the team placed fourth for reasoning; in sheep fifth for reasoning; and in swine, seventh for reasoning. Those results put them in sixth place overall for reasoning.
Also in that event, Long placed fifth overall in the swine category.
In the last competition on May 20 in Gunnison County, the senior team got into the act, placing 25th out of 32 teams. That was behind a strong showing by Tyler Knott, who placed 37th overall out of 126 contestants.
The junior team also did well in Gunnison, placing 13th out of 29 teams and eighth in reasoning.
Kimberlie Williamson led the juniors, placing seventh overall out of 125 people.
"They're really into it," Wille said of the team members. "Every one of them has done an excellent job."
The teams are practicing for their next competition on June 18, which they will host at the fairgrounds in Hayden.
The next day, the teams will travel to Rio Blanco County for a contest, which will be the last one for the juniors. On June 27, the senior team will head to Colorado State University in Fort Collins for its last competition.
Though the competitions will be over at the end of June, Wille is encouraging the team members to continue to practice so next year they can do better.
"I'm willing to volunteer my time as long as they're interested," he said.
To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail email@example.com