Arriving in mid-January I had the opportunity to work for Prairie View Farms at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. This was an amazing experience to learn how the American Show scene worked and to see a top class stud in action. From the below freezing temperatures, long haired cattle, teams of incredible fitters and glitz and glam, it sure was a shock but was an excellent introduction for what was to come.
Upon arriving in Illinois at the university I was very warmly accepted into the 4H house, which is home to 50 girls all with an interest in various fields of agriculture. This sorority house hosts all the female scholarship winners very warmly and makes you feel right at home, as well as being your personal tour guides of campus life.
After meeting with my supervising professor Dr Shike and selecting classes, judging practice began immediately. This was a steep learning curve, not only learning a new judging style but also judging species such as pigs, goats and sheep, of which I had no previous experience.
Our team of 7 students plus myself, with 2 coaches: Dr Shike and Chris Cassady for the livestock team and we also all competed on the Meat Animal Evaluation team- judging meat, trade stock and breeding stock, with an additional team member and meats coach Katelyn Jones-Hamlow.
With practice 3 nights a week, on weekends, and numerous competitions all over the country, we definitely were very busy. The University of Illinois has some amazing facilities, with a hog farm, and beef farm, as well as a fully operational slaughterhouse and meats lab on campus. We also spent a lot of time travelling around to properties judging their livestock and to large slaughterhouses for meats practice.
Competitions took us north to Wisconsin, south to Texas, West to South Dakota, and East to Indiana. With Our best achievement of the semester was winning the All East Livestock Evaluation Competition, with team and individual prizes all round.
Whilst the style of judging is very different to Australia, I do believe it improved my technique. Not only through the vast amount of practice, but having to work with scenarios, data, and then presenting your reasons in a very formal and formatic way, makes me more confident and well-rounded in my judging. There are also many other aspects of the competition that build public speaking, problem solving, teamwork, and evaluation skills.
The combination of classes, judging and living in an agriculture sorority opened up many opportunities to learn about American Agriculture, the issues they face in the industry and how they are similar/different to Australia. From facing the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus first hand to talking to industry leaders about parliamentary bills affecting country of origin labelling, you definitely get the chance to learn about many aspects of the agriculture industry. This scholarship is what you make it, with chances to take a variety of classes in all areas of agricultural sciences, getting involved in clubs and student organisations, philanthropic events, and the various social and fundraising events held by the sorority, you can follow your interests. Not only are you involved in a large number of academic activities, scholarship winners are emerged in the American College experience of sororities, fraternities, sporting events, and college pride that is so iconic.
Overall I could not recommend this scholarship enough! It was pivotal for my judging and provided me with industry contacts and peers that will be incredibly valuable in my future career. The University of Illinois is well prepared for us to come over and is very accommodating, allowing you to make the most of this opportunity in whichever way that suits you. I encourage everyone to compete in the National Judging Competition for the University of Illinois Scholarship, is a terrific opportunity no matter what direction you want to take with your judging.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks and deep appreciation to Angus Australia for providing me with this opportunity and encourage them to continue with these scholarships, and for youth to take advantage of these, as we are the future of agriculture, and we need to make ourselves the best ambassadors for this industry as we can.
2013 National Judging Competition Winner