Virginia 4-H Livestock Judging Team Wins National Competition

The Virginia 4-H Livestock Judging Team won first place at the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest held during the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 15.

The team placed first as high team overall, high team in oral reasons, and high team in beef cattle judging. It earned second place in both swine judging and sheep and goats.

  • The four-member team was one of 32 teams participating in the competition, which had a total of 121 contestants representing the best of their respective states. The winning team included:
  • Isaac Miller of Wythe County, who earned the second-highest individual score
  • Kennah Kerns of Frederick County, with fifth-highest individual score
  • Sarah Craun of Rockingham County, with the eighth-highest individual score
  • Emma Jo Donnelly of Clarke County, with the 37th-highest individual score

Coaches were Virginia Cooperative Extension Youth Animal Science Specialist Katherine Carter and Matthew Miller, associate professor of practice and livestock specialist and judging coach in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Both Carter and Miller are Virginia 4-H alumni who competed in the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest as youth participants.

“These four outstanding youth join a rich legacy of Virginia 4-Hers who came before them,” Carter said. “Virginia 4-H has long been known as a contender for top honors at the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest and has won the title nine times since the contest began in 1922, tying for the second-most wins with Minnesota and behind Illinois, with an impressive 23 national championships. The Virginia Youth Animal Science program for 4-H and FFA youth is one of the strongest in the nation with regard to the versatile project offerings and success of its youth members on the local, regional, and national level.”

The Virginia State Skillathon Team was named the Reserve National Champion Skillathon Team, taking second place overall in the contest, which featured 22 teams and 84 contestants. The students demonstrated their comprehensive knowledge of livestock to earn placement as third high team in evaluation, identification, and quality assurance.

The Skillathon team’s four members – all from Rockingham County – placed individually in the top 20 of Skillathon participants to earn the title of “All American.” They included:

  • Sarah Craun, who received the seventh-highest individual score
  • Carrie Miller, with the 10th-highest individual score
  • Malaina Ritchie, with the 11th-highest individual score
  • Grayson Long, with the 20th-highest individual score

The team was coached by Rockingham County 4-H volunteers and Virginia 4-H alumni Dave Walker and Tammy Craun.

“This is a first for Virginia,” Carter said. “To have a national champion and a reserve national champion team in these two contests in the same year is an incredible accomplishment.”

Carter added, “My pride and admiration for these youth, their hard work, passion, and dedication to achieve is immeasurable. Being able to coach the state Livestock Judging Team and give back to a program that built me and made me who I am today is a gift I am forever thankful for – and sharing that responsibility with Matthew Miller, our Virginia Tech collegiate livestock judging coach, is an absolute privilege.”

The Virginia 4-H Livestock Judging Team will travel to Scotland and Ireland in June 2024 to represent Virginia in two international livestock judging competitions, while touring and learning about international agriculture and animal evaluation.

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Youth Livestock Program enables youth to develop their interest in beef cattle, sheep, meat goats, and swine in 4-H projects. Youth learn about selection, care, and feeding of livestock, animal health, and importance of good record keeping. Participants are encouraged to compete in livestock judging and stockmen’s contests as well as livestock shows at the county, district, state, and national levels.

By Marya Barlow

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