Steamboat Springs The junior members of the 4-H livestock judging team winning the Northwest Judging Contest was quite an accomplishment.
The members were able to learn the fundamentals of the livestock industry and take a step toward successfully continuing the ranching traditions of each of their families.
"(The kids) have put in a lot of time and are really dedicated to the program," program leader Rod Wille said. "It's important to have kids continue in agriculture."
Between five and 10 counties from Colorado participated in the event.
At the livestock competition, participants ranked swine, beef and sheep from the greatest to the least, depending on their characteristics.
They then had to defend their choices with a speech to the judge.
"I thought we would win it this year, since we have won it before," Glenda Long said.
Long has participated in the program for five years and says she applies what she learns in the 4-H group to the sheep at her ranch.
"I've been raised around it. I would like to see me do work around it the rest of my life," she said.
Long won two belt buckles and ribbons at the contest, one for winning as a team and the other for being top junior overall.
She said she studies 4-H manuals and attends the weekly practices.
The six competitions members attend annually are both challenging and confidence building.
"When I speak in front of class, judging helps me so I'm not so nervous," Kim Rossi said.
Rossi, who lives on a cattle ranch outside of Phippsburg, said by selecting the right animals with good confirmation and muscle, a seller will make more money and premiums at a sale.
Wille said his group has come a long way and looks forward to see the kids continue to grow over the next few years.
He said he was a member in the livestock judging program for 11 years and now has been a group leader for four years.
He said the important lessons that were taught to him when he was in the program are something he wants to give back to the youth in the community.
"I look at the kids as my family," Wille said.
To practice for competitions, the group meets every week at a different ranch for judging beef, swine or sheep.
Wille said the time taken to learn how to judge an animal's confirmation and build is considerable.
He said the goal of the group is to have a senior team in five or six years that will compete to win in the state competition in Louisville.
This year, there are only three senior members in Courtney Long, Heather Wilhelm and Chrissy Wilhelm, which is not enough to form a senior team.
Long will be the only senior team member to compete in the state competition this year.
She said she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and thinks experience in livestock judging will provide a good foundation.
"I feel bad she doesn't have a team. She will represent Routt County really well," Wille said.
Kami Long, Courtney's mother, said she thought the program gives members an essential education for being successful in the livestock industry.
All of her children, Glenda, Courtney and Joe, have improved through the program, she said.