Judging team places second in national contest

Adrienne Lipinski, Reporter (She/Her)

Another season turned into another year of accomplishments for South Dakota State University’s general livestock judging team.

This year’s team rounded out its season at the National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest held by the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, late last year.

By placing second overall, the judging team led by coach Brady Jensen continued to build on the legacy of livestock judging at SDSU, with members placing in the top 10 overall and in respective species.

“As a coach, I always believe my students are the best and will compete at a high level,” Jensen said, who has coached at SDSU since 2017. “I was excited to see the 2021 team accomplish most of their goals and reach the heights the team and I had set at the start of the season.”

Stratton Wotowey placed sixth overall as an individual, second in cattle and eighth in swine. He is a senior animal science major from Fort Collins, Colorado. Wotowey began his livestock judging career when he was 9 years old after being encouraged by a past collegiate general livestock judging coach from Colorado State University. 

He attended a practice session a couple of weeks later, and has enjoyed it ever since.

“To be second in beef cattle is one of the biggest honors I’ve ever received,.One of my biggest passions is for the beef cattle industry,” Wotowey said. “And to be one of the top 10 individuals there at a national contest is certainly a huge honor as well.”

The 2021 judging team was made up of eight members, although only five competed at the national contest. The team started its season last January. On average, the team practiced 30 to 40 hours a week evaluating livestock and practicing reasons. 

There are two main components of judging: evaluating livestock and ranking them, and then giving a set of oral reasons on why participants placed them the way they did. Reasons are a verbal explanation, going into details on certain components of the livestock. This includes both strengths and weaknesses of the animals. 

Participants evaluate four species of livestock: beef cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. When evaluating livestock, the judges are looking for quality, bone structure, muscle, market value and more. 

At the beginning of the season, SDSU team members outlined a list of goals they wanted to accomplish as a team and as individuals, with the thought in mind of making it to the national contest. In total, the team participated in 13 contests nationwide and grew close with each other over the countless hours practicing and innumerable miles on the road. 

“My teammates probably pushed me as much as anyone ever had,” Wotowey said. “Going into it (the National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest) was kind of the end to an era, and so to be able to go out on a high note was certainly the utmost goal.” 

After completing the contest, there was an awards ceremony to finish off the collegiate event, where SDSU was announced second overall. 

“It felt amazing; being able to experience that with some of my closest friends was something I will always be proud of,” team member Bronson Smith said.

Smith, a senior animal science major from Powell, Wyoming, placed sixth in swine individually.

Jensen said that while many universities have talented students, success at the final contest proved how strong the SDSU team’s work ethic, drive for success and mental toughness was.

“The 2021 team was one of the most talented groups of students I have had the pleasure to coach,” Jensen said.