KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Six-hundred twelve miles from Columbia City, four young livestock judges continued the program’s success, winning the American Royal Livestock Judging Contest in Kansas City, Mo.
After months of practice and many farm visits, the team of Devin Baker, Grace Schrader, Maddie Schroeder and Dillon Sheiss proved that Columbia City is one of the top FFA teams in the nation this year.

The team won the Indiana State Judging contest in May, earning a trip to the American Royal in Kansas City. This is one of three major nationally ranked contests of the year. The teams have to compete to represent their state — they are no longer just Columbia City, but rather, “team Indiana.”

After leaving Monday, the team made its way to many practices. The young judges were allowed to see different livestock in person that would help with the contest which included: cattle, hogs, sheep and goats. To this older team made up of two seniors, Baker and Schroeder, and two juniors, Sheiss and Schrader, it was just another week doing what they love.

As they traveled south through Illinois and then back up through Missouri into Iowa and back to Kansas City, the team got to see many classes of animals.

Baker said the trip out West “‘was a great opportunity to travel and see different parts of the country.”

Livestock judging allows the students to evaluate and rank classes of four animals as they see fit for real function. Good functional skeletons, deep and big rib shapes on females make better mothers, and carcass traits make market animals desirable. After choosing their placings, the judges must make up a set of oral reasons defending their marked cards. The students place 10 classes of livestock and must present their reasons on six of those 10.

Each class has 15 minutes for evaluation, and the reasons are to be approximately two minutes in length. The contest took about six hours from start to finish.

Columbia City earned the title of American Royal Contest after leading the contest in multiple divisions.

All four judges finished in the top 20, a feat in itself. Adding to the success, Baker and Sheiss were in a battle for first place, with Sheiss beating out his teammate for the title. Baker finished second, Schrader was 13th and Schroeder was 15th individually.

“Being high individual was rewarding since we all worked really hard leading up to the contest,” Dillon said. “We were able to stay focused as a team through a busy month of October and a win like this makes it even better.”

Columbia City nearly swept the reasons portion, with Sheiss, Baker, Schrader and Schroeder finishing 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively. Categorically, Sheiss won in cattle and sheep and goats, and Baker placed second behind him in both species. Schrader finished second in swine.

The 4-H division was also won by an Indiana team from Rensselaer.

Along with the final competition, the judges had the opportunity to see new parts of the country.

Schroeder enjoyed “traveling to different workouts, and going to Lihart’s and seeing elite cattle to better prepare us for the contest.”

The team spent a week out east at the Keystone Judging Contest in Pennsylvania earlier in the month to help prep for Kansas City and they’re already ready to gear up for the next season.

“Being a part of the winning team was really rewarding because we worked really hard this fall leading up to the contest,” Schrader said. “We set high goals for our team and it was really cool being able to accomplish those goals and see our hard work pay off.”

Leading the team is Greg Rupert, coach; Jacquelyn Werstler, assistant coach; and Skylar Campbell, Columbia City FFA adviser.