Wool judging a thriving practice
Wool judging is alive and well at three local land grant universities. North Dakota State University, Montana State University and South Dakota State University all sent students to Denver to compete at the National Western in the Wool judging contest. The contest consist of eight classes of four fleeces, a line of fifteen fleeces and three sets of reasons.
South Dakota State University won last year’s National Western wool judging contest and has a rich history of years of successful wool judging teams.
This was the first year North Dakota State University has had students compete in Denver in thirty years. Montana State University had a team last year but before that it had been decades since they had participated.
South Dakota State University
South Dakota State University’s Wool Judging Team finished in sixth place overall. The team consisted of freshman animal science students Amanda Lage of Postville, Iowa, Chase Rieken of Fullerton, Neb., Elen Skaar of Mineota, Minn., Maggie Kringen of Madison, S.D., and Tony Munsterteiger of Ogilvie, Minn. The team is coached by Zach Smith, a Maryneal, Texas, student working on his masters in Animal Science. SDSU’s Chase Rieken was seventh high individual overall was well as ninth overall in total judging, and eighth in total placings.
When explaining SDSU’s wool judging past, Mith struck a smile and said, “The department has fielded a team nearly every year since 1974, and for many years prior to that.”
Zach points out that while the wool industry as a whole is very small in the United States it is still a viable factor for those involved in the sheep business. He adds that wool judging contests help prepare students to present and defend their thoughts in a professional manner. The SDSU team appreciates support from the South Dakota Wool Growers Association.
North Dakota State University
Denver went well for NDSU considering it was their first time competing in many years. The North Dakota team competed in the alternate category due to the fact that they had only two team members. “I was very proud of our two competitors and thought they represented NDSU very well,” said Coach Alison Crane a graduate student at NDSU. Team members of NDSU included Michelle Craig, who placed third in the hand-spinning contest and Justin Bartholomay who placed eighth. In individual total placings in the overall contest, Michelle placed fifth and Justin sixth.
“Denver wouldn’t be possible without the support we received from North Dakota Lamb and Wool Producers association. They went out of their way to support this program and that support was second to none,” said team member Bartholomay.
“I am hoping our program will grow for the future. With a year under our belts now, our coaches are more aware of what to expect and look for. I hope to help coach the team next year and I feel fully prepared to do so now after wool judging myself. I’m excited for our next year’s team. I think there is a bright future for the NDSU Wool Team,” Bartholomay added.
The NDSU coach said judging provides useful experience in public speaking, traveling and learning to formulate and articulate ones opinion professionally. “Wool judging was especially important to my team because they both have a vested interest in the wool/sheep industry and through being on the NDSU team, were able to become certified wool classers and experience life in a shearing shed. Wool judging has also allowed them to take part in extensive networking, from meeting other college’s teams, to the officials and other coaches from universities across the country.”
Bartholomay believes wool judging connects emerging industry leaders with real world experience in the wool industry. “Our knowledge and passion for wool will help us to lead the sheep industry in a forward movement.”
Montana State University
“When I first started the Wool Judging team at MSU, I had no idea why it was important and now I love it. Wool is a great fiber and industry that is only going to expand as people look for better quality clothing,” said Sarah Boyer a team member for Montana State University.
Sarah Boyer, Andrew Seleg, Rebecca Gibbs and Leah Nelson made up the 2014 MSU wool judging team and they were coached by Lisa Surber. “We wanted to be in the top three but were competitive individually so it went well,” stated Leah Nelson. Sarah Boyer was fifth high in individual placings and Rebecca was eighth high overall. As a team they placed fifth!
“With the effort of this year’s team, the team next year can be great. We just have to take the time to help recruit, train and help. It’s a large effort and going to Denver pays off the more help you have because it builds confidence. Those meaningful team talks, they don’t create themselves. It’s hours of work and frustration and successes that create those talks. Those talks will stay with you forever,” continued Sarah
Nelson appreciated support from the Montana Wool Growers, individual producers, and fundraising helpers. “We also had great mentors and coaches; including those involved in wool purchasing, shearing, classing, extension, and more to help us build our skills to compete in Denver. Our team was very fortunate to have so much support!” F