Members of Thomas County Central High School’s ?FFA Livestock Evaluation team proved they know their stuff during the South Region Livestock Judging Career Development Event.
The team placed second overall in the event, held in Ocilla on Nov. 15, and advanced to state competition; member Tori Stringer was named the second-highest scorer in the entire event.
“I am really proud of these young people and the time and dedication they have put into this event,” advisor and agriculture teacher Robbie Harrison said. “For several of the students, they have been participating in the event for the past four years; for others, it was their first contest. I am thrilled that they have qualified for state, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Harrison began training teams for the event when she started teaching Animal Science and Biotechnology. This is the ninth team she has coached.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to coach such a solid group of young people that share the same passion for the livestock industry,” Harrison said. “They really make my job rewarding, and I am excited about their future.”
The event focuses on the skills necessary to select breeding and market animals “based on their phenotype, and knowledge of the cattle, swine, sheep and meat goat industries,” Harrison explained.
Team member Caleb Hurst said his favorite part of the competition is judging the livestock because it is something not everyone can do, such as looking at animals and being able to “tell which one has the best structure or which one walks the best.”
Hurst, the team’s first-year member, expressed surprise – but good surprise – at the team’s placement.
“It’s more of an ‘I can’t believe we made it’ surprise,” he said.
Tori Stringer is “really excited” about her high individual placement. She said the event is one of her favorite competitions and she worked “really hard” in hopes of placing high.
“I always tell everybody this is one of the hardest competitions in FFA,” she said. “I’m really glad that not only me but our entire team was able to place in the competition and do well. Every year I have competed in this competition I have placed higher each time, so maybe next year I can get first place.”
Stringer explains the competition is made up of three parts: six judging classes, two reason classes, and an industry test. She made three perfect scores in her judging classes and in the other classes she “was really close.”
“The reasons and the test are normally what determine how you place,” Stringer said. “You can be great at judging, but if you don’t do well on reasons and the test, that is the difference between placing high or not.”
She thinks doing well on the test helped her earn the second-highest placement: she tied with one other individual for highest score.
“I did fairly well on my reasons, the explanation of how I placed a class of animals and why, but that is what I need to work on the most because the competitors at state don’t do ‘fairly well’ on their reasons; they do phenomenally.”
Teammate Riley Stringer, who was raised on a swine farm, said his favorite part of the event was judging the market hogs and presenting his reasons for placing each one in the class he chose.
He was not as surprised as Hurst by the team’s second place finish.
“Three members of our team were experienced and I knew Caleb was good at placing the classes,” he explained. “So, I was pretty confident that we would place high enough to go to state.”
Now, the team will turn toward preparing for the next leg of competition, which will be held March 17, 2017, at the University of Georgia.
“Our team will practice being able to give oral reasons for placings, study information about each segment of the livestock industry, and continue to practice placing the different livestock species based on a specific criteria,” Harrison said. “In addition, the students will also learn to interpret and utilize genetic data for cattle, sheep, and swine.”