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St. Ansgar finishes fourth at Montana livestock competition

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 12/09/2013 1:40 PM

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ST. ANSGAR —St. Ansgar FFA's livestock judging team finished fourth last month at the Northern International Livestock Exposition in Billings, Mont. Team member Ben Weis was first place individual out of 260 FFA'ers who competed.

The livestock judging team of Weis, Matt Levan, Kim Beyer and Olivia Bisbee, all seniors, earned the chance to compete in Billings by finishing second at the state competition at Iowa State University in August. When Bisbee couldn't go to Montana because she couldn't miss a college class, Heather Keech, a senior, stepped in to take her place.

Seventy-five FFA teams from the United States and Canada competed in Billings. Teams placed 12 classes of market and breeding cattle, sheep, hogs and goats and gave three classes of oral reasons.

St. Ansgar was first in sheep, second in reasons, fourth in beef and seventh in swine. Beyer was 25th, Levan 30th and Keech 51st individually. Weis was top individual in reasons and sheep judging. Keech was third place individual in sheep judging.

Weis has been judging livestock since seventh grade, and has shown beef cattle for many years.

"It's always a surprise winning a contest," said Weis. "It was feeling of relief to see that all the time you spend preparing and the hard work pays off."

Levan started livestock judging three years ago. The first time he tried it, he liked it, and he kept going to contests.

"Our views on cattle in Iowa are a little different from what they have in Montana," said Levan. "The sheep and pigs were similar."

Weis said some of the differences likely are because of how the animals are raised.

The students came to school early several times per week to practice for the contest. They watched online classes, placed livestock online and gave their reasons.

Keech hadn't given livestock judging much thought until they asked her to be part of the team.

"I learned a lot from the early morning practices and if I had questions I asked Ben," Keech said. "I learned the most from Ben."

Keech said she knew the team would do well but was surprised that she was third individual in sheep judging.

She never had given oral reasons before the contest. The night before the competition, they all gave oral reasons to Weis.

"That really helped," she said.

Judging at the National Barrow Show also was good preparation, she said.

Beyer attended livestock judging camp at Ames as a sophomore and has been part of the judging team ever since.

"Ben gave us a lot of details the night before in the hotel, and that really helped," Beyer said.

Because they went to Montana during the government shut down, all the national parks were closed. They saw the aftermath of the early October blizzard in South Dakota. Dead cattle lined fence lines in some spots.

"Due to all the cattle deaths, ranchers were not accepting visitors," Weis said.

The team traveled with agriculture education instructor Jim Green and his wife, Doris.

"I think it's cool that it's Mr. Green's first year here, and he's put so much effort into helping us supporting us and making us do our best," Beyer said. "Doris really made the trip enjoyable."