K-State Livestock Judging Team returns from competing at Cattlemen’s Congress
for The Fence Post
On the heels of Kansas State University’s livestock judging team earning the highly-coveted No. 1 national championship in late 2020, K-State’s new 2021 livestock judging team competed a the new Cattlemen’s Congress in Oklahoma City in January. The major stock show served as a replacement for Denver’s National Western Stock Show.
“We just returned from Oklahoma City and finished fourth with our new squad at Cattlemen’s Congress. Our next outing will be at the Sioux Empire Stock Show in Sioux Falls, S.D., during the weekend of Jan. 30-31,” said Chris Mullinix, head coach of the Kansas State University Livestock Judging Team. Even placing fourth, it’s still early in the game, since a new livestock judging team begins each year.
Coach Mullinix is excited about this new team, and is still on a big emotional high, after just coming off of a huge year of energy and excitement; earning the National Championship
K-State just earned the national award this past Nov, 16 at during the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky., out of 30 universities who compete with livestock judging programs.
It was K-State’s 15th National Championship but their first since 1998 when they completed an unprecedented run of five consecutive wins. The 2020 victory followed four straight Reserve National Championships, and for team member, Skyler Scotten of Nevada, Mo. he was filled with emotion when Kansas State University’s school name was read off that morning as the National Championship team.
“My teammates and I had worked the majority of our lives for that moment,” he said. “At first the excitement was surreal as the impact of our accomplishment hadn’t set in. As we’ve had time to reflect, it was incredibly neat to bring back the bronze bull to Manhattan and be the first team in over 20 years to win the national contest for our school.”
The accomplishment is a key part of the great relationships the judging team members all had with each other and their coach. “When we started this journey, we all wanted the same goal, and it was awesome when we accomplished it,” Scotten said.
Enjoying the people he was surrounded by every day, was an especially rewarding part of being on the livestock judging team.
“It’s true that people say you’re a product of the environment you’re in. We all became lifelong friends and pushed each other to be better every day that we crawled into the 15-passenger van,” Scotten said. It was all about the connections that the students made through that team. “I’ll have those for life, and I’ll forever be grateful for that,” said Scotten, who has just started a masters degree program at K-State.
In addition to Scotten having an amazing year and being named a top 10 individual at every contest the team attended in 2020, he was the second-highest ranked individual overall at the national contest, and was named high individual overall at the American Royal in October. Scotten’s year is complete, but he is staying on at K-State as a graduate student and will serve as an assistant coach for 2021 and 2022.
All the work from the team that ultimately earned the national championship, really wasn’t a significant change in the program’s approach to teaching.
“Honestly, we truly didn’t do anything differently,” Mullinix said. “I’m proud of the four teams that preceded this one that were named Reserve National Champions and I’ve always believed strongly in our approach here at K-State in teaching students to understand the livestock industry. This past year was about staying true to who we are, working hard and having the right combination of students to accomplish the goal.”
Mullinix began training the university’s new team in December to start competing in mid-January at Cattlemen’s Congress.Team members were asked to evaluate classes of livestock, and their rankings were compared to a set of industry officials. They gave an oral reason/short speech, outline and defended their placing of an animal. “They have to understand industry value, whether an animal is market ready and it really ties together with what we focus on in an animal science degree program,” Mullinix said.
Livestock judging helps with various skills in life, especially time management and oral communication, regardless of the chosen career, Mullinix said. The team members learn to think on their feet, make logical decisions, and strengthen the ability to defend those decisions, and articulate thoughts.Many of the team members grew up participating in 4-H and FFA, and this opportunity culminates their experiences in college and young adult life, not just on the judging team, but throughout the College of Agriculture.
“It’s a challenge every year, to find and recruit those people for the program,” said Mullinix, who was born and raised on a diversified cattle and farming operation in central Maryland where his family runs a Hereford cow herd, an Angus herd and a small feedyard. Mullinix received his animal science degree at Kansas State University, and he was also a member of the school’s livestock judging team in 1995, when he was recognized as the contest High Individual. Mullinix has judged cattle exhibitions in 40 different states including the North American in Louisville, the American Royal, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Fort Worth Stock Show and the National Western Stock Show.
Working around COVID required some re-working of plans, but the students were up to the challenge.
“We were happy to do whatever was asked of us to make sure these students had the opportunity they deserve,” Mullinix said. “Administration gave us an opportunity, but we were glad to follow whatever protocol is necessary.” They wore masks practicing in the van, and had strict guidelines, to mitigate any spread of COVID-19. “Thankfully we had a group of people at the university level and the national level that recognized the importance of this opportunity for these students.” The entire team is seniors who get that one competition year, considered a capstone event for their education in animal science competition.
As an outreach for the coach and K-State’s extension personnel, a big part of the process is helping grow the students’ enthusiasm.
“We had many students whose parents were former members of the livestock judging team here at K-State, even their grandparents,” Mullinix said
A major goal for the students is to someday be on the livestock judging team.
As Scotten reflected on being on their national championship, he said, “I’ve grown up in the livestock industry and I’ll tell you it’s not easy. But if you set goals and stick to them, you’re certain to persevere. Whether you’re raising, showing or judging livestock, when a plan comes together there are very few things compared to that feeling. For me that’s what is most rewarding.”
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