One of the most discussed (cussed) issues of showing livestock is the judges. Some people (shows included) don’t understand why it is important to know who the judge is before the animals are bought. Some think if you don’t know, you can’t try to play politics. This is way off.

It is good to know because every judge likes different things. Just as some people are attracted to blondes and others brunettes, judges have their preferences. Some coaches like to run the ball and others prefer to pass. Some people like country music, while others like to rock out. Some judges prefer a larger animal while others prefer a given weight. Some prefer muscle while others prefer structure. When buying show stock it is important to know who is judging your target show.

Politics is what most people complain about on judges. I think most of the shows are judged fairly and unbiased. But it is frustrating when an obvious political placing happens and it causes a lot of questions. Sometimes, some of the placings aren’t political, but because it is a well known showman, it seems that way. Sometimes, in a close placing, judges will place an animal higher because of showmanship and the outstanding presentation of a given animal.

What makes a good judge?

1–Timeliness. A judge should start on time and move through classes in a consistent manner. Give every animal a good look or two. The longer a judge takes, the more disagreeable spectators become. If there is no doubt how the animals need placed, place them. If they need to take a minute or two to study a close class, study them. A judge should also always double check all of their placings before finishing a class. All of us have missed one before, this helps stop that.

2–Reasons. Describe the main points as to why that animal is winning and what could be changed. Tell why the 1st place beats 2nd. Make the reasons fit the animal. Don’t lie to me and tell me things about my animal that aren’t true. Some judges are so good at reasons that they can make you see their point, even when you don’t agree. Some need practice.

3–Courteous. A judge should be courteous to the showman, ring help and the crowd. It is the judge’s opinion that day, but the people involved are way more important.

4–UN-political. Most judges will know somebody at the show that they are judging. That is part of it. But if they don’t have the right one, don’t use them. If it is close, fine. Do what you gotta do.

5–Consistent. I don’t have to agree with a judge as long as I understand why the animals are placed the way they are. When a judge gets to the division champion, breed champion, and especially the grand drive, the animals should look similar in style, balance, structure and muscle. A judge should have a pattern of what his/her ideal animal looks like and should pick animals that come close to fitting that pattern. This can be hard to do at smaller shows, but should be easy at the larger shows.


This year at Tulsa and OYE, I thought the wether judges were very good in terms of time. They placed every class within in about 20 minutes. They started on time and finished in good time. We weren’t there late getting done. Their reasons fit the animals. I didn’t have to see the final placing to know what animals were used in a given class. I could follow their reasons. They were both very courteous to all involved. Tulsa judge actually told every kid that placed what he liked and disliked about their animal. There hasn’t been anybody crying foul in terms of politics. They were both very consistent at the top end of their classes. Some divisions didn’t have their exact pattern, but they found good goats. They were also consistent in the pattern of animals used compared to previous shows that they had judged.

I liked showing to both judges and they use a different kind of goat. OYE judge puts more emphasis on chest floor, ribcage and muscle. He tolerates more structure issues if the animal has the right pieces that he is looking for. Tulsa judge puts more emphasis on structural correctness, balance and length. He will give up muscle to get the total package. Both judges used goats that were finished correctly with a show ring look and enough bone. They have similarities, but they use different types. At both shows, when we got to the grand drive, it was evident what goats they were going to use to win. Because they had been consistent throughout the show as to what they were looking for in a good one. At OYE, I had to explain to Duke before the grand drive that he was not going to win. He didn’t like that, but he was fine with it when we told him Mercy was going to win. His reply, “Okay. Cool. She is a senior.” Tulsa was a little different.

I enjoy watching good livestock. A judge is like an umpire or a referee. They are in charge, but when the show is over, it isn’t about them. It is about good kids and good animals. If a judge is timely, talks good reasons, is courteous, un political and consistent, then they did their job. I don’t need to agree with a judge, I just need to understand why they did what they did.

Are all livestock people good judges. No. Just because somebody can breed one doesn’t mean that they can judge. Some have a good eye, but can’t talk them. Some don’t like pressure. Some are too radical in the type that they like. Some are too political. Some people just aren’t a good judge, but because they have a title, they get asked to judge. Some should have been steered towards wood shop or band, because livestock judging just doesn’t fit them. Just as not everyone can hit a baseball, not everyone can judge livestock. Appreciate the good ones when you see them.

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