K-State student captures overall win at National Livestock Judging Contest

Jack Oattes, senior in animal sciences and industry, was awarded during 110th annual National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo Courtesy of North American International Livestock Exposition)

Many people who are successful in sporting events have been involved with them for many years, and this is usually no different in livestock judging; however, Jack Oattes, senior in animal sciences and industry and this year’s overall winner of the National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest in Louisville, Kentucky, was an exception.

After months of work and preparation, Oattes entered the last contest of his judging career on Nov. 16. After sorting through classes all day, Oattes was announced as the high set in five different reasons. The next day, he was announced as the first Canadian to win the National Livestock Judging Contest since 1925.

“It was easily the greatest accomplishment I’ve ever had in my life,” Oattes said.

Oattes, an international student from Cobden, Ontario, said that before coming to the U.S. to judge at the junior college level — and later for K-State — said he had never seen a hog, let alone judged one. Even though he grew up on a livestock operation focused on raising Charolais and Simmental cattle, Oattes said he was drawn to the U.S. by livestock judging.

In livestock judging competitions, participants rank four animals of the same species, such as sheep, goats, pigs or cattle, and then justify their placings through oral reasons. Many people who participate in this sport have seen thousands of animals before they even set foot in the ring of a judging contest.

After receiving a judging scholarship from Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, Oattes said he was introduced to the world of marking cards and giving sets of reasons. After two years at Blinn, he transferred to K-State to further pursue his judging career.

Now on the major stage, the pressure was on Oattes to develop his skills to mark cards at the national contests. Even though he might not have had the level of experience possessed by those he was competing against, it was his work ethic and passion for livestock that led him to the top, according to Chris Mullinix, instructor in animal sciences and industry and livestock judging coach.

“Jack possesses an incredible instinct to outwork other people,” Mullinix said. “His desire to improve is truly remarkable.”

Mullinix also said Oattes was an incredible inspiration to his teammates, often leading them to work harder without even knowing it.

K-State’s livestock judging team also experienced success after being the first K-State team to win the American Royal Judging Contest in Kansas City, Missouri, since 1999, according to Oattes and Mullinix. According to K-State’s Livestock Judging archives, K-State’s 1999 judging team placed first in oral reasons. In 1998, the team placed first both in oral reasons and in the overall ranking.

Assistant coach Brady Jensen, graduate student in animal sciences and industry and Oatte’s roommate, said Jack worked hard to get to the top.

“He would work before and after practice perfecting sets of reasons and working towards his goals,” Jensen said.