Livestock judging team earns recognition all year round

Olivia Hoots, Lamp staff

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Pay attention LLCC students! There are nationally-recognized students walking the hallways with you. These students are members of the school’s Livestock Judging Team coached by Agriculture Professor Craig Beckmier.

Clayton Schowe, a 19-year-old sophomore, chose Lincoln Land, which is 370 miles from his hometown of Cassville, Missouri. The team attracts team members from throughout Illinois and other states, including Mississippi and Colorado.

Schowe’s family runs a seedstock operation. He was encouraged to start judging in 4-H by his cousins when he was younger. Schowe was not sure that he wanted to judge in college until late in his college career.

“Once I decided to judge after my visit at LLCC, Coach Beckmier was easily the reason I committed to come here,” Schowe said.

One of the tenants of livestock judging is that team members have to explain their decision of how they ordered their animals to judges.

Livestock judging ranks cattle, sheep, swine and other animals “based on skeletal composition, based on their quality of look and balance while defending your placings through oral reasons,” said sophomore team member Thomas Crome.

Crome grew up in Marshall, Illinois, about 130 miles from Lincoln Land’s campus. Beckmier asked Crome to come and visit Lincoln Land and consider being on the team.

Crome first became interested in livestock judging through 4-H. He has always been very competitive and judging was his way of putting his grit to use.

The team holds great significance at Lincoln Land because of its success but is often overlooked by other students who may not understand what the team is or why it is important to the school.

Team members are committed to livestock judging and are “recruited from out of state and out of district,” said Dalton Lemenager, a sophomore. 

Lemenager grew up almost 150 miles from Lincoln Land’s campus in Clifton, Illinois. Lemenager grew up on a farm with an Angus cow and calf operation that also grows corn and soybeans. He first became interested in judging because his older siblings were involved in the sport. He decided to get involved through a 4-H program. He then contacted Beckmier to tell him that he was interested in joining the Lincoln Land team.

“The camaraderie being on a livestock judging team is second to none,” Schowe said. “Throughout middle school and high school, I was on my fair share of sports teams, but there is something special about a van full of kids who are all very opinionated and passionate for the Ag industry.”

Agriculture students at LLCC are advocating for the Ag industry daily, both on the judging team and in Ag club, as well as throughout the Ag program. The agricultural programs at Lincoln Land are continuing to grow and produce successful students.

The team’s commitment is shown in their accomplishments throughout the year. The Bluegrass Classic Stock-show resulted in a honor for overall judging for the team last spring. This year has given the team several Top 10 finishes including third place in swine judging in Louisville and winning the reasons category at the Bluegrass Classic.

Crome received reserve individual in swine and other members received top ten finishes in both the fall and spring of this year.

Lemenager said they will be attending the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March.

Crome said they will be hosting their own contest for high school students in April.

Lemenager has learned “how to make a decision and stand by it,” and Crome agreed, saying is grateful for learning how to defend any decisions he makes.

Crome said he will reap lifelong benefits from the network of people he has met through judging.

All three members are thankful for the experiences that they have had because of their time on the Lincoln Land Livestock Judging Team.

Judging taught him to “keep an eye open for opportunities, be willing to take them and see that they are there,” Lemenager said.

Schowe is thankful for the advice he has been given.

“Many officials at contests have talked about where, in a job hunt scenario, those applicants that have been a member of a livestock judging team easily sort towards the top before an interview. Between connections and future employment, I have a lot to be thankful for because of judging,” Schowe said.

Crome wants other students to be aware of the team’s national recognition and “for people to be more open to Agriculture and how it affects everyone’s daily lives.” He also wants fellow, and future, students to know of the greater number of opportunities coming to the entire LLCC agricultural program because of new expansions that are on the way.

Olivia Hoots can be reached at [email protected]