Tyler Bush ranks high at national livestock judging contest


Adrienne Lipinksi, Reporter

Tyler Bush has been competing in the world of livestock judging with a goal of winning the high individual title since he was 8 years old, and in November, that goal became reality.  

Bush, along with members of the South Dakota State University’s livestock judging team, competed at the National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest held by the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. His dream became real when he was awarded the honor of high individual overall and high individual in reasons. The team placed third overall in the contest.  

Originally, Bush was not awarded the title of  high individual. During  a banquet held to announce the winners at the end of the contest. Bush was announced 4th overall. 

The team’s coach Brady Jensen asked him about his scores after. After examining the results packet, Bush felt that there was a mistake, as  the paperwork did not mirror how he thought he did. Not wanting things to be shrugged off, Jensen asked for the results to be checked again.  

“Having Brady go to battle for me to make sure that every stone was flipped and knowing he put himself on the line meant a lot,” Bush, the animal science major from Britton, South Dakota, said.

It was a difficult, yet exciting, three and half hours waiting for them to recalibrate the scores.  

At the end of the day, it was discovered that Bush had won high individual. Though he was “bummed” that he didn’t get his name called in front of the audience with people watching, he was happy it all got fixed.  

“But the team being third, I don’t think anything would probably beat that,” Bush said. 

The contest started out with a tough class, so he worked to get his nerves out by focusing on ending the day on a high note. Bush felt confident his oral reasons for placing the class went well.  

On the collegiate level, participants judge groups of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. They examine the animals and determine a ranking on what animals are the best based on the animal’s appearance. For example, they look for the quality and structure of animals. 

Judging has impacted Bush’s life in many ways by teaching him organization, detail, big picture ideas and to appreciate what is good in life. It taught him to approach situations for what they are and to not get sidetracked. After college, Bush plans to go back to his family’s farm; livestock judging will help him check for the quality of his livestock.  

“I tried to make it like every other day by going out there to judge and trusting my instincts, knowing that my coach had us prepared and ready to go for it,” Bush said. 

“It’s a team sport,” Jensen said. Members practice roughly 20 to 30 hours a week, day or night, weekday or weekend. The team will travel to area farms and ranches to practice judging and giving oral reasons. 

Their season starts in January and goes until November, competing in multiple contests with the North American International Livestock Exposition contest concluding their season.  

Team members include Bush, Simon Liggett, Matthew Chaney, Tommy Norman, Brooke Skoglund, Lexi Wetzel and Brittany Morgan. 

Chaney was a high individual in sheep and goats and placed 14th overall. 

Like Bush, Chaney started judging when he was 8 years old. Both expressed their profound appreciation for their coach, family and friends who helped them accomplish what they have in their collegiate careers.  

“This goal could not have been achievable without my team here at SDSU and without their hard work, discipline and dedication to this dream,” Chaney said. “Otherwise it could not have been made a reality.” 

The team has become a second family to Bush because of their time spent together and bond over their passion for judging. 

As a senior, Bush finished his collegiate career on a high note and is looking toward the future. 

He plans to help Jensen coach the new team in the coming months to help them prepare for their seasons. 

January marks the beginning of a new season, and Bush has already gotten his coaching feet wet with the new team, as they just got back from a contest the second week of the month.  

“It was a whole new experience, and I guess to be proud of someone else is cooler than accomplishing something yourself,” Bush said. “I’m really looking forward to watching those kids grow and do successful things.”