In the stock show industry, livestock judging is considered one of the most competitive sports. Whether you just started out your judging career or already a well seasoned competitor, these tips from Zane Webster, a member of the 2016 national livestock judging champion team, will help you polish your game.
Zane Webster started livestock judging at a young age through 4-H and FFA in Arizona. He had the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky, and Denver, Colorado to compete with his state winning teams.
After high school, Webster attended Connors State College in Warner, Okla., to judge for their livestock judging team. Following his sophomore year, he was named a member of the All-American Junior College Judging Team. Webster transferred to Texas Tech University and, you guessed it, joined the judging team. In 2016, they won the North American International Livestock Judging Competition.
Q: How did you become a great livestock judger?
A: “I paid attention and listened to every judge at any show I attended; the way they said things about livestock, they way they described them. You can learn something from everyone. Even if they had a different opinion than me, they taught me something new and to think from different perspectives.”
Q: What advice would you give to students preparing for a livestock judging competition?
A: “Treat every practice like you are preparing for a national competition. You’ll never see a class that won’t help you become a better livestock judger. If it is a terrible class or a high quality class, you will learn something. Go into every practice with a good attitude.”
Q: What are some things you are sure to do for every competition?
A: “I tell myself words of affirmation to pump myself up before and after every competition. If I know I messed up at one competition, I look to see how I can improve. Everyone is capable of having a bad day. The next ritual is a little weird. If a show is multiple days long, I pay attention to which day I do my best. From that day on, I wear the same pair of socks for the rest of the judging days.”
Q: What was your favorite part about livestock judging?
A: “I traveled all across the country for livestock judging. Have fun! I went through contests just having fun no matter the outcome, traveling with my team and making memories with them. Always encourage each other.”
Q: Is there anything else you would say to someone just starting out their livestock judging career?
A: “When I first started livestock judging, I thought I was at a disadvantage because I wasn’t from a traditionally competitive state, like Texas and Oklahoma. But with hard work and listening to all the judges I came in contact with, I became just as good as anyone. I realized I was the only person putting the disadvantage upon myself. If it is a passion of yours, don’t let anyone tell you not to do it. Keep going. Keep learning.”
Webster currently works on his family farm in San Simon, Arizona. He plans to go into an extension position where he can work to help students who have a passion for agriculture and livestock, just as he did growing up.
Taylor Rogers, a native of Mesa, Arizona, is pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural communications at Texas A&M University. She is serving as a 2017 Arizona National Livestock Show Digital Media Intern.