Behind the scenes at the NWSS |

Behind the scenes at the NWSS

In addition to the washracks for the cattle shows, the warm up arena for the rodeo competitors, and creative parade entries that take hours of preparation, another event at the National Western Stock Show has some individuals planning months in advance to be ready. Agricultural youth come from practically every state of the union to compete in what is the Western National Roundup from January 5 to 9, 2022.

The WNR consists of a variety of judging events – the National 4-H Horse Classic -Western Division, the 4-H and FFA Livestock judging contest, Livestock Quiz Bowl, the 4-H and FFA Meat Identification and judging contest, the Family and Consumer Science Classic, the National Public Speaking Contest – Prepared and Impromptu and the National Parliamentary Procedure Contest.

Covid in 2021 prevented the National Western Stock Show, and the youth judging events, from taking place.

The Cattlemen’s Congress last year in Oklahoma during the same time frame as the NWSS gave show families the chance to exhibit their animals. This year the event coincides with the NWSS, pulling many of the longtime show families away from Denver (but that is another story).

The NWSS youth judging contests are headquartered at the Renaissance Denver Hotel with other activities at the nearby Holiday Inn East with livestock judging in the arenas at the NWSS complex. The following are excerpts garnered from FFA and 4-H team members and coaches.

Getting to Denver – took many forms – driving through winter conditions, flying with flights changing to or from, or in the case of Iowa – “I wanted them to experience new as much as possible,” Coach Cooley said. “We took the Am-trak from Creston and rode the trains.”

Costs – It is a right the team members received to be invited to compete at the Western National Roundup (WNR) in whatever their contest, but the cost to do so is $300 per member, and $400 per coach – at least for the livestock judging teams. This does not include the cost of lodging, several meals, or other incidentals. Fundraising was necessary or donations were greatly appreciated. “We want to thank the Dawson Co. 4-H Foundation, the Dawson Co. Cattlemen and the Nebraska 4-H Foundation for sponsoring us to this event,” stated Nebraska Coach Wolfinger. (Member Gregg Treffer rides with his Dad, Bruce, retired UNL Extension educator on the annual trail ride in the forest near Halsey every October that benefits the NE 4-H Foundation).

For Iowa – Coach Cooley set a budget of $4,000. “Production Credit of Osceola gifted us $1,500, and I applied for and received a Perkins Scholarship for continuing education that covered my cost, so the local FFA chapter only had to pay $500 of the $4,000 budget.” North Dakota member, Olivia Nitschke, said they did raffles and garnered a lot of donations from area businesses and individuals.

How they got to WNR – Many teams have been together for months practicing. Each livestock judging or quiz bowl team is made up of 4 members. Some teams are from one area, while others are put together after points compiled through other contests. For Nebraska, judges come to the state judging called Premier Animal Science Event (PASE). They can begin with up to 8 members, but after judging, giving oral reasons and other activities over the 2- day event, a team of 4 is selected. Dawson County has always had strong showing in many of the national contests over the years.

Coach Schaffer from Illinous brought 7 team members, flying into Denver earlier than most. The final 4 was decided on by the coach after hearing oral reasons from all 7 members the night before the actual contest on Friday, January 7. 21 teams were in the 4-H division while the FFA had 14.

Learning livestock judging – Two websites were mentioned that helped participants prepare, especially on Thursday when winter weather struck Denver and caused the cancellation of teams traveling to do hands on judging practice and The Illinois team was able to go to Advance Feedyard in Sterling, CO to practice beef judging, and also to Little Bo Sheep in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to practice sheep judging.

Day of the Livestock judging – State opening ceremonies for the WNR were held on Wednesday evening with delegates from the states carrying the 4-H Flag and the American Flag and rules and guidelines as well as schedules were given. Elizabeth Hadley from Wyoming was the American Flag bearer.

Friday, Jan. 8 – Youth came dressed in business casual to the lobbies of the two hotels to load onto the buses by 8 in the morning to travel to the NWSS complex. Breakfast burritos and juice were offered by the hotel. Support staff, aka coaches and parents, had to find their own way there. Judging consisted of 5 classes of beef, 4 hogs, 2 sheep and one goat class. Oral reasons were in the Holiday Inn East after the youth arrived back. Six classes of reasons were given by the 140 youth in both divisions, where the 3rd floor rooms had been held strictly for that purpose. Team photos were taken at 10 p.m. that night.

Awards on Saturday – For full results see

The following are just a sampling from the 4-H Division: Each species and the reasons so 5 categories of awards were presented. Winners from 10 to 6 stood and were recognized while winners 5 to 1st came and got ribbons. The winning states are listed.

Goats – 5th – NE, 4th – AK, 3rd- TX, 2nd- NM, and 1st – MT. Sheep – 5th -TX, 4th- IN, 3rd- IL 2nd -WY, 1st -ND (Jamie Geyer),

Beef – 5th NE, 4th – MT, 3rd – ND (Jamie Geyer) 2nd – CO, 1st – IN

Hogs – 5th – TX, 4th- CO, 3rd- IN, 2nd -ND (Jamie Geyer) 1st-WY

Reasons: 5th -CO, 4th- TX, 3rd – ND (Jamie Geyer) 2nd – IN 1st- WY.

The top five overall team in the 4-H Division received a banner with that acclamation on them. 5th – MT, 4th – TX, 3rd- CO, 2nd -ND and 1st- IN.

The high point overall team as well as the top individual judge also received belt buckle. If you followed the above results, top high point 4-H overall judge – Jamie Geyer from North Dakota.

Winners photos were taken afterwards not only for the livestock judging, but the reserve and grand champion Livestock quiz bowl teams had their photos taken as well.

L2R – Reserve Champion Livestock Quiz Bowl team from Minnesota – Jaden Weinkauf, Taylin Juller, Will Debates (5th ind also), Mabry McGunegill, and Tyenna Muller

L2R – Champion Livestock Quiz Bowl team from Texas – Austin County 4-H

Emma Eckelberg, Jr. Stewart Poffenberger, Jr. Morgan Hesters, Sr – Brooke Diezl, Jr

Thanks for the information for this story:

Thank you to 25-year Coach Sue Schafer and her 7 member FFA team from Taylorville High School, Illinois. Members included Sue’s daughter, Lizzie, a Senior, Cole Paulek, Jr and Sophomores – Audrey Curtin, Liam Steward, Drew Mickey and Jay Blier for an in-depth look of livestock judging at one of the upper echelons in the nation for ‘the sport’.

Fellow thank-yous to Nebraska 4-H coach, Janice Wolfinger and her Dawson Co. 4-H team members – Senior Greg Treffer, Lexington, brothers Spencer and Parker Walahski, Junior and Freshman, respectively, and Junior Jacie Wolfinger, coach’s daughter. Spencer and Jacie attend the consolidated school system of Sumner, Eddyville, Miller or S-E-M, while Parker attends school at Overton.

Other contributors to this story included from

Wyoming- 1st year FFA instructor, Kristina Sharp, Coach Heath Hornecker and the members – FFA , all from Casper – Kassidy Brooks, now a Freshman at Casper College. She is the state Vice president of FFA and in her 5th year and final FFA judging contest. Her other teammates include Brekken Hornecker, Jr. Miranda Dickinson, Sr. and Nolan Hornecker, Jr., cousin of Brekken and Heath’s son. Wyoming also bought a 4-H team all from Laramie consisting of Kolton Lake, and Mayci Wade, Sr., and Jr. Riley Miller and Kymber Stinson.

Utah – Coach Trudy Smith, Volunteer 4-H leader for 17 years. Her team is made up of 3 sophmores, 1 Jr. Members included Shaylee Rose, Brinley Baldwin, McKayla Morris, Valerie Skidmore.

Iowa – Coach and Ag teacher, Mike Cooley, in his sixth year at East Union High School in Afton, IA. His team was made up of 2 girls, 2 boys- all Jrs.

Idaho – Coach Jeanna Askew, 4-H leader and volunteer for 8 years. Team is from Emmett, ID.

North Dakota – 4-H Coach Brian Zimpirch and team members Olivia Nitschke, Jr., Jamie Geyer, Sr., and Soph. Paige Zimprich and Lilly Solemsaas.

Reserve Champion Quiz Bowl Team, from Minnesota - Jaden Winkauf, Taylin Muller, Will Debates, Mabry McGunegill, and Tyemma Muller. Will was the top 5th individual. Terri Licking
Courtesy photo
Teams judge hogs at the event. Mike Cooley
courtesy photo
Red Angus breeding heifers. Trudy Smith
Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Hadlay, Abbie Wuebker, Emmet and Peyton Long. Courtesy photo





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