While 4-Hers are on the front lines showing their projects this summer, it’s a pretty exciting time of year for leaders as well.
Robyn Hendel, who has been a leader of the Fulton County 4-H Livestock Judging Team since 2014, helps members gain skills in judging beef, sheep and dairy. She’s seen them win individual and team awards for years and now is seeing them off to college.
One member is off to use his judging skills at Lincoln Land College in Springfield this year, she says with pride. Others are judging livestock or meat at Black Hawk College and the University of Illinois using skills they learned in 4-H.
“I have a couple who went on to be master showmen,” she says of her Avondale 4-H Club members.
As a 4-H leader, she says her job is to organize meetings and be a facilitator in helping them find what they need to know. At various farms, they learn about characteristics to look for in each species and practice judging classes.
“We go to a lot of farms and figure out the good traits and what are not good traits,” she says.
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Because the judging competition includes multiple species, there is a lot to know.
Then they travel to judging contests throughout the state to put their skills to the test. The members have a limited amount of time (10 to 12 minutes) to observe, take notes and determine their rankings.
Last year was a highlight when Hendel’s Fulton County junior team won the 2022 State 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. The junior team also won both the Geneseo FFA Alumni Contest and Joliet Junior College Contest. Several team members won first as individuals in the junior and senior questions division.
Her team is gearing up now for the state judging competition in Champaign June 20. She’s been busy helping the seniors prepare to give their oral reasons in judging this year. Juniors only need to answer questions, while seniors have to be prepared to present reasons in the proper format.
Developing the skills “takes a lot of time. It doesn’t happen overnight,” she says.
She also helps students prepare to show animals at fairs and other events. Before show day, she’s always ready to give hints to the first-timers about little things to make the day easier, including details about weigh-in times, tattoo requirements, bedding and fencing.
She also helps coach members if they are having a bad day.
“We’ve all had it when an animal is not acting the way we want,” she says.