Stillwater News Press

July 17, 2013

Children learn life lessons as livestock judges

By Nick Woodruff
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Livestock judging is more than a competition; it’s a way of life.

The Big 3 Field Days will have more than 1,600 people go through its livestock judging competition when it wraps up Thursday.

The event lasts for three days and each day contestants judge a different type of livestock. The first day, the contestants, who range from 8 to 18 years old, judged sheep. Beef judging is the next day, followed by hog judging on the final day.

The event targets 4-H and Future Farmers of America youth, said Rusty Gosz, youth livestock specialist for the animal science department at Oklahoma State University. Gosz said judging contests in Oklahoma and in some of the surrounding states are a big deal.

“We enjoy them and we participate in them,” Gosz said. “It is something you kind of grow up doing and it is something for OSU to open its door and say, ‘Come and enjoy yourself.’”

The contests continue to grow, Gosz said. The event has been going on for 27 years, and OSU awards many scholarships and rewards to students.

Gosz said even though it is a lot of work, he enjoys seeing the competition. The event is what some people look forward to every year, he said.

“We announce this event and battle drums start to beat and people come out of nowhere,” Gosz said. “Peoples’ family vacations revolve around this. This is just something that has become a long-standing tradition in Oklahoma and we deliver a fun environment.”

Haworth FFA adviser Terry Maye has attended each year of the event. He said FFA and livestock judging was important not only to his chapter but also his family.

Maye said lessons from livestock judging carry over into everyday life. Kids learn to be competitive and improve their presentation skills, he said. Judges ask the contestants questions and the contestants must be able to answer questions at the “drop of a hat.”

The process helps prepare kids for job interviews in the future, he said.

Maye said his daughters were successful livestock judges and it taught them life lessons.

Courtney Maye, who is one of Maye’s daughters, won high individual at the Tulsa State Fair. He said it was the highest score posted and no one has beaten the score for two years. Livestock judging has always been special but when his daughters had success in it, it was a great feeling for him, he said.

Since Maye has had success with the livestock judging contests, he said the Big 3 Field Days event has always been a part of his summers as an adviser. He said the event has a lot to offer besides competition.

“There are a lot things as an instructor this event takes care of,” Maye said. “We are required as ag teachers to take kids to summer events and being from a rural part of Oklahoma, it might be surprising how many kids don’t get out of the county. This event is a chance for kids to get away from home and see different parts of the state.”

Since the event has become a staple for some FFA programs during the summer, its success has caught the attention of other states, too. Maye said he heard some states have called Oklahoma State University asking for floor plans of the arena and want to mirror the event.

Maye said Gosz deserves a lot of credit and what he does for this event is spectacular.

“(Gosz) might not have all to do with it, but he has a big percentage,” Maye said.

“What he does year in and year out is incredible and it is one of the best livestock judging events in the country. He deserves a ton of credit.”