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Livestock Judging

cattle judging in arena

The North Dakota 4-H livestock judging contest provides an opportunity for youth enrolled in 4-H livestock projects to enhance their livestock evaluation and selection skills. Additionally, a judging contest improves their communication and decision-making skills, giving them invaluable life skills toward career development. The purpose of the 4-H livestock judging contest is to teach youth how to evaluate livestock and how to make and defend their decisions. Participants will judge classes that include beef cattle, boer goats, sheep and swine. Seniors then will answer questions from a class to evaluate their thought processes and knowledge of the species judged. Participants then will prepare sets of oral reasons and meet one-on-one with an official to describe the reasons for their class placement. Competition in livestock judging fosters self-confidence, organization, critical thinking, teamwork skills and oral communication skills. Just as important, this contest advances their knowledge of the livestock industry. This contest provides an educational program for all project members, including those who may not own a project animal.

The winning 4-H senior team will have a choice to represent North Dakota at the national 4-H livestock judging contest at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Ky., in November or the Western National Roundup in Denver, Colo. The second-place team has the option to compete at the Western National Roundup in Denver and still compete next year at the state level to qualify for NAILE.

Objectives and Outcomes:

  • Stimulate learning in animal science and agricultural industry
  • Have youth develop positive interests and attitudes about animal science and related careers
  • Have youth gain a base of knowledge of animal science projects
  • Have youth utilize skills and abilities to solve everyday situations
  • Reward 4-H members for knowledge gained in a subject matter area
  • Allow youth to gain valuable producer experience
  • Provide a competitive setting in which attitudes of friendliness and fairnessprevail
  • Allow participants to process information, analyze complex problems and make informed decisions regarding current agricultural, environmental, livestock, producer decisions and industry issues
  • Have youth develop teamwork, self-confidence, public speaking and decision-making skills
  • Have participants seek higher education opportunities and careers related to animal science
Remote video URL

Age Divisions

Each age division is considered a separate contest and youth may enter one of the following divisions:

  • Junior 4-H division: Youth ages 8 to 13 and enrolled in North Dakota 4-H as full-time 4-H members (not a short-term member) as of Dec. 31
  • Senior 4-H division: Youth ages 14 to 18 on Dec. 31, and enrolled in North Dakota 4-H as full-time 4-H members (not a short-term member)
  • Open division: Participants ages 8 to 18 not eligible for 4-H divisions. 4-H/FFA dual members choosing to only judge in the state FFA livestock judging contest this year may enter this division. Individuals from another state are welcome to enter this division.

The senior first-place team overall will represent North Dakota at the national 4-H livestock judging contest held in conjunction with the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Ky. The first-place team is awarded $1,000 from the North Dakota 4-H Foundation to help with travel expenses. The second-place senior team overall has the option to represent North Dakota at the Western National Roundup 4-H livestock judging contest in Denver, Colo. The second-place team is not awarded funding for travel expenses at this time. Contestants must already have passed their 14th birthday and may not have reached their 19th birthday as of Jan. 1 of the year in which the national 4-H competitive event is held. However, the state 4-H leader may grant a special authorization to compete for youth with developmental disabilities who exceed the upper age limit.

  • To request funding for the national 4-H livestock judging contest: The Extension agent in the county of the representative team will need to write a formal letter to the North Dakota 4-H Foundation director, Penny Dale, ( and copy the state 4-H animal science specialist at on the email as well. Request funds for $1,000. Include: who the 4-H Foundation should write the check to, where to mail the check, the names of those competing on the team, and the name and date of the national event. County agents and coaches are responsible for determining the age and member eligibility of participants in the state 4-H livestock judging contest from their respective clubs.

Who May Enter

  • Contestants must be enrolled in North Dakota 4-H (4honline) as a full-time member in the county they represent. Short-term 4-H members are not eligible to compete at the state level.
  • Counties may enter any number of participates in either age division. The high three individual scores will determine the team score.
  • All participants are eligible for individual awards.
  • Counties may combine to form a team, provided neither county has more than two participants. Combination teams must preregister together for the appropriate age group. A team of three may not pick up a fourth member from another county.
    • Both counties and coaches from the different teams must approve combining of individuals for a team.
  • While the contest is in progress (including reasons), no conferring shall occur among contestants or anyone else other than the contest superintendents, group leaders or their representative. Fifty points will be deducted from the total score for each talking infraction reported.
  • Individuals with disabilities are invited to request reasonable accommodations to participate in NDSU-sponsored programs and events. To request accommodations, please contact Holly Halvorson at 701-231-7251 or by Feb. 24 to make arrangements.
  • 4-H members are not eligible for this contest if:
    • They have judged at the national 4-H livestock judging contest in Louisville.
    • They have participated in official post-secondary (university, college, junior college or technical school) competitive events of a similar nature in the same subject matter area. Neither can they be members of a post-secondary team undergoing training in preparation for an event.

Please preregister online at

  • Changes and substitutions may be made at registration on the day of the contest.
  • To register, use your North Dakota county 4-H number and “ND” as your username and password. Example” If my county number is 7777, I would put ND7777 for the username and ND7777 for the password. County numbers are listed on the last page of this document.
  • The deadline for the winning state 4-H livestock judging team to decide to go to nationals: July 1
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