Understanding the muscle structure of sheep and mastering public speaking are just some of the skills that Moffat County youths learn as members of the 4-H Livestock Judging Club.
The club, which has 13 members, competed in a judging competition in Sterling this past weekend. Livestock judging coach Chad Green compared the competition for his students to a track meet for runners.
"The participants practice the art of judging animals in three different classes and take those skills to the competitions," Green said.
He said youths are divided into two groups; juniors (those younger than 14) and seniors (those older than 14). They learn to judge three species of animals -- sheep, cattle and swine -- for things such as muscle formation and bone structure. He said they must learn to judge animals based on all the criteria and be able to tell judges why they judged the way they did.
"That is called the 'reasons' part of the competition," he said.
Green said 4-H members meet every Monday night at the CSU Extension Office for classroom work. Members learn public speaking, discipline and cooperation as well as information about the animals.
"Now that the weather is clearing up, we'll be meeting at different (ranches) so they can get more hands-on experience," he said. "This will give them skills for the future, even if they don't become producers."
Teams compete in groups of three or four and typically with other state 4-H clubs. About 300 4-H members typically attend the competitions. There are three more meets and the final competition in Fort Collins. The top three teams go on to represent Colorado at either the National Western Stock Show in Denver, The American Royal in Kansas City or National American and the International Livestock Expo-sition in Louisville, Ky.
The next meet will be May 14 at the Douglas County Fair-grounds in Castle Rock.