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How to win the show

Agriculture.com Staff 09/01/2006 @ 1:24pm

Want to win a livestock show? Successful Farming magazine asked coaches of top collegiate livestock judging teams what they're looking for in the ring.

If you want to win a hog show, your pig must be sound, says Jake Franke of Texas A&M University. "Trends have shifted to hogs that exemplify a very productive, easy-growing look. This results in hogs with sounder skeletons and more structural width."

Dan Shike, University of Illinois, agrees. "A few years ago, hogs were getting too lean in the show ring even for the commercial producers. The really lean hogs weren't as productive or profitable for the producer and didn't meet the packer's demands either. Now we select hogs that fit in an optimal range of fat cover and combine muscle and correctness."

Chad Murnin, Colorado State judging coach, advises his students to look for structural soundness, even if it means sacrificing a little muscle. "A few years ago show hogs were bred to have more muscle, which compromised their mobility to the point that they struggled to get up and down in a confinement setting."

There is a sizable gap between the appearance of show lambs and commercial lambs, says Murnin. "The show ring is shifting more toward the Hampshire breed-influenced sheep. There is a big difference in commercial production and the show industry when you look at the type of sheep shown vs. those in the feedlot."

Breeding sheep are the least like the commercial industry, notes Shike. "The purebred show industry still places more emphasis on frame and attractiveness. If you put those ewes out in some of the Western states, they wouldn't be the most profitable. The commercial industry looks more at correctness and efficient production."

Structural soundness is important, says Franke. "Judges are paying closer attention to how sheep move and how they are designed through their skeleton. It's not just the sheep with the largest stature and the heaviest muscle that win anymore."

To pick a winner in the cattle ring, look for a balance, says Shike. "Cattle should have a balance of traits and be sound in structure and easy fleshing."

Franke says the Charolais influence is starting to gain a foothold in major shows. At the 2005 American Royal in Kansas City, the champion junior steer was a smoky-colored Charolais cross.

However, while Charolais-Maine-Angus cross calves are becoming popular, the industry is not going to move toward purebred Charolais club calves, says Franke. "The idea of the traditional solid black calf winning isn't losing ground, but the idea that other colors are winning is gaining ground," he says.

Photograph: Alicia Clancy

Want to win a livestock show? Successful Farming magazine asked coaches of top collegiate livestock judging teams what they're looking for in the ring.

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