North Carolina youth compete nationally in livestock judging and skillathon contests

NC 4-H Livestock Program

Brent Jennings, left, national team coach, and Bryan Blinson, right, hold a class of Herefords for youth to judge. Practicing starts long before the state and national contests. The North Carolina 4-H Livestock Program puts on several clinics to help youth become better at skillathon and judging.

Following is a guest post from Marisa Linton. Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock, and currently lives on her family’s small farm in Mount Olive. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for the past 14 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

Skillathon Team that competed at Keystone, left to right: Mary Dunn, Sierra Sockwell, Mary Beth Tyndall and Stefani Garbicik

Skillathon Team competed at Keystone

Left to Right: Mary Dunn, Sierra Sockwell, Mary Beth Tyndall and Stefani Garbicek

Every year, youth from across the state come to Raleigh to compete in livestock judging and skillathon contests. The competition is heated, and not just because it is held in the summer.

While all the youth want to do their best and compete for top prizes, youth in the senior division also are competing for a chance to represent North Carolina at the national competitions. For many, this is a goal they have been working towards for years.

“I am incredibly thankful to have been given the opportunity to compete in a national agriculture competition and have a lifelong dream fulfilled,” says Mary Beth Tyndall, national skillathon team member from Deep Run.

A portion of the proceeds from the N.C. State Fair Sale of Champions goes towards sponsoring these contests and youth.

Teams headed to the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky., for the national competition. Before traveling to Louisville, they competed at other competitions and practiced — a lot.

For the judging team, practices meant looking at tons of livestock and studying judging criteria. The skillathon team had to memorize large amounts of information regarding all aspects of livestock, and team members had to be able to tell one brown cow breed from the next. Practicing was also about learning to work together.

“It was very rewarding to get this group of girls together, understand their strengths and weaknesses and try to mold them into a cohesive team,” said skillathon coach Stefani Garbacik from Goldsboro. “We all had a great time together, tons of laughs and lots of learning.”

Livestock Judging team at North American International Livestock Exposition, seated left to right: Mason Blinson, Sam Brake, Caleb Henson, Tucker Worley; standing, left to right: coaches Noah Henson, Brent Jennings, Dan Wells

The team competed at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition in Harrisburg, Penn., and South Eastern Regionals in Raleigh. In November, they ended their travels in Louisville at the national competition.

Competing in these competitions develops life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and self-discipline, along with developing a deeper understanding of the livestock industry.

“This competition really exposed me to how the culture of agriculture is different in other parts of the United States, but we all have one common goal to feed people efficiently,” said Mary Dunn, skillathon team member from Mount Olive.

Those on the judging team enhanced their public speaking skills, confidence and analytical skills. Additionally, competing in judging and skillathon created a deeper passion for livestock.

“I can personally say that being on the state 4-H livestock judging team was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that really confirmed my decision on wanting to eventually work in the livestock industry,” said Noah Henson, livestock judging assistant coach and past national livestock judging team member from Canton.

For Henson, being able to act as an assistant coach was a chance to see things from another perspective. He competed on the national judging team a few years ago. This year his brother, Caleb, was on the team.

“Getting to work with youth that have such passion and a drive to excel in the livestock industry is truly inspiring. I loved watching the kids work so hard on improving and performing to the best of their ability. It’s so easy to see why the youth that grow up in 4-H make such great leaders in the workplace regardless of what they do,” Henson said.

Judging Results:

Keystone North American South Eastern Regionals
Team – 1st in pigs Team – 19th overall Team – 11th overall
Caleb Henson – 1st in pigs Tucker Worley – 7th in sheep Caleb Henson – 7th in pigs
Hannah Ellis – 2nd in pigs Hannah Ellis – 8th in cattle
Makayla Sawyer – 3rd in pigs
John Eric Ellis – 5th in pigs

Tucker Worley won top honors at the 4-H State Livestock Judging, Skillathon, and Quiz Bowl contests. Worley also was given the chance to compete on the national judging team for 2016.

Skillathon Results:

Keystone North American
Team – 7th overall Team – 12th overall
Mary Beth Tyndall – 10th individual overall Team – 11th in quality assurance
Mary Beth Tyndall – 1st in quality assurance



About Marisa Linton See

Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock in NC. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for 15 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

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