MADISON — For 4-H’ers, the Madison County Fair is all about fun competition.
The livestock judging contest at the fairgrounds here proves that point.
Wednesday’s contest in the south livestock arena allowed 4-H’ers from around the area a chance to show their skills in decision making.
“They have to learn to make decisions,” said Mike Roeber, the judge for the contest. “Then they have to defend those places.”
The participants evaluated a series of animals, including cattle, sheep and swine in regard to the breeds’ ideal characteristics. Muscle, frame and structure are among these characteristics that decipher which animals are better than others.
Trevor and Kaitlyn Koenig, who are members of the Norfolk 4-H club, were among the participants, having competed for three years now.
“They’ve done it enough that they aren’t nervous,” said their mother, Jami Koenig.
During the livestock contest, Kaitlyn showed her cow, Diamond.
“The best part is showing my cow and spending time with my cousins,” she said.
Her cousins, Braylyn, Braxton and Brooklyn Baldwin, also members of the Norfolk club, were participating in the livestock competition for the first time.
“My favorite is the cows,” said 4-year-old Brooklyn, who competed in the pee-wee section, which is for children younger than 5.
To promote a fair contest, there are different sections of age groups. Cloverbuds are ages 5 to 7, juniors are kids ages 8 to 13 and seniors who are 14 and older.
The older participants decipher animals based on quick thinking and learned characteristics of the livestock. The younger kids, who are still developing their decision- making skills, may choose based on, well, less scientific criteria.
“I like the color,” Baldwin said about how she chooses the animals.
Her mother, Nina Baldwin, helped her fill out her judging sheet. As the animals were brought out, she would ask her youngest daughter which animal she likes the best.
“The younger kids are still learning what to look for to judge the animals,” Mrs. Baldwin said.
Although they are still learning, 4-H extension assistant Sarah Polacek, said she believes it’s good for kids to be involved with the livestock judging.
“It teaches a kid to look at the quality of an animal and judge them like a judge would,” she said. “They build their skills from year to year with this program.”
Following the judging, the older participants must give an oral explanation to back up their answers regarding their answers. Roeber, who is an instructor at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, listened to each child’s short presentation.
“It’s an educational deal,” he said. “For these little kids, it’s a good start for them.”
This is Roeber’s 22nd year judging the livestock judging competition, but he has been involved with the competition for much longer.
“I grew up raising livestock, showing livestock,” he said. “My two brothers and my sister and I were all members of my livestock team. It is just something that we have enjoyed.”
Roeber was also involved with 4-H while growing up, and he advocates for everyone to be involved in some way.
“It’s a good program,” he said. “Learning how to take care of livestock or bake cookies or whatever it is that they are going to do. Get involved with the 4-H program.”
Like Roeber, Jami Koenig also enjoys the 4-H program and the Madison County fair.
“We camp at the fair all week. The kids play soccer and football in the evenings,” she said. “It’s a fun week.”