Livestock Judging

Livestock judging is a highly competitive experience that enhances independent decision-making abilities while challenging participants to process information quickly and be able to defend a position or decision. Livestock judging is the visual appraisal of an animal’s physical traits, including positive and negative features. The ultimate goal in judging livestock is to compare and contrast the four animals in a given class against one another, and then compare them to what is considered the “ideal” animal. Livestock judging allows personal growth and development as it requires a student to think critically. It can teach youth valuable time management skills, responsibility, and how to be competitive while demonstrating honesty, integrity, and respect.

Livestock judging instills these valuable life skills, but also provides opportunities for learning about selection and obtaining general knowledge about the livestock industry, as well as interacting with current industry leaders which may prove beneficial throughout the one’s 4-H career and into adulthood.

Age Divisions and Teams:

Livestock judging participants can compete within three age divisions. Junior-aged competitors range from eight to ten-yearsold on or before September 1 of each year. Intermediates range from eleven to thirteen-years; and senior–aged participants are fourteen to eighteen-years-of-age. Teams consist of up to four members within the same age division. The contest is completed individually, but the top three individual scores of each team are calculated for the overall team score. Before traveling to a judging contest, it is important to check with each contest’s guidelines to ensure the correct age division and team rules are followed. Some contests may combine the junior and intermediate divisions.


Livestock judging contests are generally set up the same across the state. Typically, a 4-H contest will consist of 8-10 classes, four being market and the other four being breeding, though this number varies depending on the contest and availability of livestock. All animals will be haltered, in a stanchion, or in a smaller pen for evaluation. Animals that are tied up or in a stanchion will be numbered one through four, from left to right.
Livestock in a pen will have a number on each animal. Participants are divided into groups and given twelve to fifteen minutes to evaluate each class. Based upon the class being labeled as breeding or market, youth will follow industry guidelines to rank the four animals from best to worst. After placing each class, they will answer questions or give reasons on a couple of the classes depending on their age and the contest.

4H Contests Held During the Texas State Round-up

At Texas 4-H Roundup, participants will judge eight classes (three beef, two sheep, two swine and one goat) and will give oral reasons on four classes. No printed materials may be used as an aid during the contest. Contestants will utilize expected progeny differences (EPDs) on breeding classes

This contest will give youth the opportunity to further their knowledge and skills when evaluating livestock through a workshop/practicum setting. Contest will include four judging classes (beef, swine, sheep, goat) and questions over the four judging classes (five questions per class).

For more information, check out the Texas 4-H Livestock Judging Explore Guide.

Texas A&M Livestock Judging Camps

The Department of Animal Science annually conducts the “Texas A&M Livestock Judging Camps.” The camp is designed for 4-H youth ages 11-17 that are interested in building their knowledge about the evaluation principles associated with marketing and breeding beef, swine, and sheep. Oral reasons, live grading and the use of performance data will be heavily stressed.

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