This roan shorthorn heifer stood at the top of its class, evaluated for AgriNews by Tom Younts, because of its overall combination of muscle, structure, volume and growth.
This roan shorthorn heifer stood at the top of its class, evaluated for AgriNews by Tom Younts, because of its overall combination of muscle, structure, volume and growth.

FISHERS, Ind. — For many 4-H members who show livestock, the dream is to one day be standing next to the judge, smiling for a photo while holding the purple banner which declares their animal as the best in show.

However, before this goal can be achieved, the judge, whether they are evaluating swine, goats, sheep or beef cattle, must decide how the animals in the class stack up against each other.

Tom Younts, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Hamilton Southeastern High School, has been judging cattle for several years.

When he was in 4-H, he recalled, he showed Angus cattle. Through people he met at the shows, he said, he made connections that, when he became old enough to start evaluating county fair beef shows, gave him footholds in the judging world.

“Showing and judging go hand-in-hand — shows and judges are like milk and cookies,” he said.

The livestock judge noted that he still is in the Angus business today, having some of his own at his farm, because the beef industry in general always is getting better and being involved with cattle is something he always has done.

He mentioned that the reason he has judged and worked with cattle for so many years is not just because he likes it, but it is because there is a need for somebody to judge livestock exhibitions at county and state fairs.

“It’s something I like to do — and somebody’s got to do it,” he said.

To help 4-H members become one step closer to making their dream of seeing flashing camera lights and purple banners a reality, he visited sisters Macy and Abby Fout to evaluate a class of Shorthorn heifers they had assembled for AgriNews to share simple tips that cattle judges may seek.

When judging a class of breeding heifers, Younts noted, there are five priorities that he always looks for as he picks his class winner — structure, growth and performance, muscle, volume and eye appeal or breed characteristic.

With those ideals in mind, he started the class with the large roan Shorthorn heifer.

He added that it had a good combination of muscle, structure, volume and growth, which were all tied up into one nice, neat little package. Earning second was the all-red Shorthorn heifer. “The big red one excelled in growth and performance and volume,” Younts said.

However, he added, the little roan heifer rounding the class out in last place did have better structure and more muscle than the red heifer that was ranked in the position above it.

Younts noted that some judges would look at that pair and potentially flip the rankings so the red heifer would be in last and the little roan Shorthorn would be in second.

He explained that it all depends on which priorities a judge feels are more important, and although he prefers an animal that is the perfect blend of all five categories, some individuals will pick a heifer or steer that excels in just one.

When it comes to judging steers, Younts noted that the priorities are the same in terms of what he and other judges are looking for in the cattle, but he puts more emphasis on the muscling of the animal.

He noted that the Hereford steer, which is owned by the girls’ cousin, Cole Fout, handles really mellow over the rib, it’s not too fat and it has the perfect combination of muscle and structure.