COLUMBIA, Mo. - Meat goats joined the lineup of classes of cattle, hogs and sheep at the Youth Livestock Judging and Grading Workshop, March 8, at the Trowbridge Livestock Center.
Participants studied pens of goats for their meat quality and had lessons on estimating grade and yield on more traditional livestock classes. This was the first year goats were included in the workshop
Some 700 FFA and 4-H members took part in the 19th annual event put on by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Lloyd Wilson, Jefferson City, Missouri Department of Agriculture market program leader, said the event helps young people understand the decisions that go into the production and marketing of livestock. Wilson was ring announcer for the senior division of the contests.
In addition to market animal judging, the workshop included classes on "keep or cull" in breeding stock selection.
Chip Kemp, Columbia, MU livestock team coach, told the group that goat judging was the coming thing at area fairs. "Already, the goat show is the fastest-growing livestock class at the Missouri State Fair."
Corbitt Wall, St. Joseph, who heads the USDA livestock market graders in the state, said he wasn't impressed with goats at first. "There's a place for goats on a lot of farms. They fit into small farm operations," Wall told the young people.
"Also, they can be combined with a beef-cow herd as they will eat brush and weeds but won't touch the grass gazed by cattle," Wall said. "In fact, they prefer the weeds."
Wall gave the introductory lessons to some 300 beginners in livestock judging. "The way to grade livestock is to learn to see what is fat and what is lean." Livestock graders must visualize what is beneath the hide.
Wall said a well-muscled goat will look like a loaf of bread, rounded across the top line. Unlike cattle, goats do not have much marbling, or fat within the muscle. The fat is external, over the top of the muscle.
"Goat grading is simpler," Wall said. "There only three levels, called Selections 1 through 3." Livestock grades help simplify livestock marketing.
In the cattle class, Wall told the youngsters to look at the animals from behind. If they look round, they have lots of muscle. If they look square they are fat. "Fat makes them flat across the top and fills them out."
"On a fat animal, you won't see the backbone sticking up," he said.
The same principles apply to all of the animal classes, Wall said. The eye of the judge can be trained to see what is fat and what is lean muscle, which makes the meat product.
Grade and yield scoring is different than traditional livestock judging classes in youth livestock competitions at the fairs, Wall said. "We're not looking at show animals. These are animals that you see in pastures as you drive down the road. These are animals that farmers raise to make money."
The USDA grades, including Prime, Choice and Select, indicate how much fat will be in the final cuts of meat. To a certain extent, fat makes meat taste better. Prime grade provides the fattest and most expensive cuts.
However, too much fat is not desirable when it comes to yield rankings. The more fat that must be trimmed lowers the meat yield.
The young people learned to evaluate both grade and yield - skills needed in the livestock trade.
The beginners class, made up mostly of young 4-H members who are part of MU Extension's youth development program, had great fun shouting out answers to Wall's questions as each new animal was run into the show ring for evaluation. Answers were all up and down the scale.
On the other side of the Trowbridge Center, in the main arena, high school students were much more serious. They were competing for point scores for their 4-H club or FFA chapter.
Winners will be announced later by the Missouri Department of Agriculture in Jefferson City.
The award-winning Mizzou livestock-judging team assisted with the classes, moving animals in and out of the ring and the arena for both the beginners and advanced classes.
MDA livestock-market reporters were in charge of handing out and gathering judging cards in the stands. MDA reporters from across the state come together to help with the event and to attend a training session to sharpen their skills.
During the week before the event, organizers collected examples of different classes of livestock from the MU herds, private breeders and area auction barns.