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A University of Nebraska coach and former team member share advice for collegiate judging team hopefuls.

Elizabeth Hodges, Staff Writer

April 28, 2023

3 Min Read
Members of the 2021 UNL Livestock Judging Team and their awards
MOVING ON: Members of the 2021 UNL livestock judging team enjoy their wins and realize the knowledge and experience they gain in college will help them in life. Members include (from left) Savannah Millburn (assistant coach), Payden Woodruff, Kathlyn Hauxwell, Neleigh Gehl, Hannah Robertson, Brady Gittlein, Ralston Ripp, Tatum Brunkow, Malina Lindstrom, Payton Flower, Carissa Cline and Blaine French (head coach). Courtesy of UNL

Standing in a muddy cattle pen on a rainy day is not the dream college experience for many students. But the rare few who dare to live it know one thing: Livestock judging at this level prepares you for real-world situations.

“Livestock judging is so much more than placing classes and talking reasons,” says Blaine French, head livestock judging coach at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The skills students can gain from it are real and will prove so beneficial as they step out of their comfort zone and into the workforce.”

Malina Lindstrom was one of those students. She competed on the 2021 UNL livestock judging team. Originally from Elm Creek, Neb., Lindstrom grew up showing high-quality cattle and even dipped her toes into showing a few hogs. Coming from a cow-calf and row crop operation, she understood the commercial side of the cattle business, but she never really judged much before college.

Today, Lindstrom is the marketing and communications specialist at Darr Feedlot. Her hands touch a little bit of everything in this position from sending out communication efforts to putting together a show list.

She credits time spent on the livestock judging team for helping advance her professional expertise, which often reaches over into management decisions on the family farm.

Benefits beyond judging livestock

Lindstrom shares her top 5 skills gained from judging at UNL:

1. Exude self-confidence. Lindstrom states that confidence found in the livestock judging room helped her represent and stand behind the agriculture industry. French agrees that confidence is an important part of livestock judging, and students walk away more confident.

2. Present an argument. The daunting part of livestock judging is oral reasons, which play an integral role in the contest. Lindstrom uses this in her career when defending marketing decisions or presenting new ideas. She even sees this playing a role at home when helping with breeding, culling and cattle marketing decisions.

3. Make decisions quickly. In a standard livestock judging competition, students will have 12 minutes to place a class and get adequate notes. This time limit forces competitors to decide quick and know why they made that decision. “To me, this directly aligns with what students will be expected of each day in the workforce regardless of what career path they choose,” French says.

4. Manage time. It might seem obvious that in a 12-minute class, you must use your time wisely. However, Lindstrom notes that livestock judging kids must manage their time outside of the arena as well. “It is important to be able to balance school, work and livestock judging practice, especially when you are in the animal science complex late at night for reasons practice,” she says.

5. Evaluate and appreciate all livestock. Lindstrom comes from a cattle and hog background and never really liked sheep and goats before judging. However, she has a newfound appreciation for all species, even the specialty breeds. She is a well-rounded evaluator because of her time on the UNL livestock judging team.

The UNL Livestock Judging Camp is a great way to get started livestock judging. It will be June 7-9 at UNL East Campus. The registration deadline is May 22. For more information and registration form, visit

If you have questions about the camp or collegiate judging, contact Blaine French at [email protected] or 402-472-8834.

Hodges is a member of the UNL livestock judging team for 2023.

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About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Hodges

Staff Writer, Farm Progress

Growing up on a third-generation purebred Berkshire hog operation, Elizabeth Hodges of Julian, Neb., credits her farm background as showing her what it takes to be involved in the ag industry. She began her journalism career while in high school, reporting on producer progress for the Midwest Messenger newspaper.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she became a Husker Harvest Days intern at Nebraska Farmer in 2022. The next year, she was hired full time as a staff writer for Farm Progress. She plans to graduate in 2024 with a double major in ag and environmental sciences communications, as well as animal science.

Being on the 2022 Meat Judging team at UNL led her to be on the 2023 Livestock Judging team, where she saw all aspects of the livestock industry. She is also in Block and Bridle and has held different leadership positions within the club.

Hodges’ father, Michael, raises hogs, and her mother, Christy, is an ag education teacher and FFA advisor at Johnson County Central. Hodges is the oldest sibling of four.

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