An absolutely incredible experience that I will never forget is the best way that I can describe my semester at the University of Illinois.
From the moment I stepped off the plane at the Champaign airport and greeted by some of the lovely 4-H house girls I knew I was going to make some wonderful friends and memories during my time in Illinois. I shared a house with 37 girls who all studied agriculture degrees and are also very enthusiastic and passionate about the future of agriculture.
After settling into the 4-H some of the girls took me on a tour around the UoI campus so that I would be able to find my way around once classes started. On the first day of classes I met up with Dr Dan Shike who helped me to select the classes that I wished to study. I was extremely excited to see the variety of specialized agricultural classes available and the hardest decision was choosing just 5 of them. But with Dr Dan Shike’s help I was able to select those subjects that would be of the most interest to me which included Intro to Animal Science (ANSC 100), Management of Farm Enterprises (ACE 232), Meat Science (ANSC 409), and two livestock judging classes; Meat Animal Evaluation (ANSC 209) and Breeding Animal Evaluation (ANSC 211).
Whilst at the University of Illinois I thought I would make the most of the opportunity and I competed on three judging teams; livestock, meat animal evaluation and meats. This kept me very busy training for about 20 hours each week; trying to absorb as much as I could especially when it came to the species that I was not familiar with judging. Through the teams we judged live pigs, goats, sheep and cattle as well as pork, lamb and beef carcasses and retail cuts. Coming from a beef background and having never judged the other species before I had a lot to learn and fast as our first competition was just a couple of weeks into the semester. All up I travelled to nine contests in eight different states with my best results in the sheep evaluation in Madison, Wisconsin where I was the section winner and the beef evaluation in Knoxville, Tennessee where I came fifth. I am also pleased to report that as a team the University of Illinois came second at the National Meat Animal Evaluation Contest in Lubbock, Texas and we won the All East Contest which was held in Knoxville, Tennessee. Along the way we stopped at some interesting places with my favorite stops being Express Ranch, the Oklahoma Youth Expo and the Keeneland horse races.
Another great aspect of being at the University of Illinois is getting an insight into some of the research being conducted there to improve feed efficiency and carcass quality. I also became involved in the newly formed Collegiate Farm Bureau attending trivia nights, giving away cookies and milk on the Quad for WTF Day (Where’s The Food Without The Farmer Day) and hearing from guest speakers on issues such as Agricultural Advocacy and how we can all do our part to improve the image of agriculture amongst the wider population. Another highlight of my time here was putting on the orange and blue colours and attending an Illini basketball game courtside. The energy in Assembly Hall was electric and although they did not win the game that night the crowd continued to show their support. On weekends when we were not competing or practicing I was also fortunate enough to visit the homes of the some of the girls that I lived with in the 4-H house. I enjoyed seeing how their operations differ and I thank them for their hospitality.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Illinois. I have met some amazing and talented people who I will continue to keep in contact with. I would like to thank Queensland Angus for nominating me and Angus Youth Australia for sponsoring me. I would also like to thank the 4-H
house for being so inviting and making me feel at home, Dr Dan Shike for his guidance, my livestock coach Chris Cassady and meats coaches Katelyn Jones-Hamlow and Diana Clark for all that they have taught me during my time in Illinois. And last but certainly not least I would like to thank my family who have kept everything running smoothly for me while I have been away, I could not have done this without their support.
I strongly encourage all Angus Youth members and young beef enthusiasts alike to apply for this scholarship, it is an amazing opportunity and the things I have learnt and the friendships and contacts I have made will be with me forever.
2012 National Judging Competition Winner