Building on a century-long tradition of excellence that the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Animal Science has established, the 2022 livestock judging team recently brought home the reserve national champion title.

Head and shoulders image of young female livestock judging team member outdoors.
Katie Kempen ’23 (Photo by Tar Tut ’23, Texas A&M Livestock Judging Team)

The National Collegiate Livestock Judging Contest was held in conjunction with the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. Roughly 150 students, representing 30 universities, annually compete in the contest.

The team is led by Caleb Boardman, lecturer and livestock judging team coach in animal science.

Although placing highly at contests is one of the goals of the judging team, it is not the sole purpose and reason students participate, said Boardman. Below, Katie Kempen ’23, an animal science major on the team from San Antonio, shares her experience of being on the reserve national champion team.

What led you to want to be part of a collegiate judging team?

My father was part of the 1984 livestock judging team at Texas A&M University. He was the person who laid the foundation for my judging career and always pushed me to compete at the highest level. I knew after high school that this was no longer only a passion but something that I was very competitive at. Livestock judging has helped pay for my college education, which was a huge part of my decision to join the college program at Texas A&M. 

What have you gained from being on the team aside from bettering your livestock judging skills?

I grew as a person. From the very first day, my coaches instilled in me the core values of integrity, honesty and respect. Also, I gained a tremendous number of relationships. Whether those relationships were me meeting some of my best friends in life or industry leaders who would help me with my next step in life, I firmly believe these are the type of connections that you cannot form any other way. 

What are your plans after you graduate? How did being on the judging team impact your future career?

After I finished my collegiate judging career, I began as the assistant livestock judging coach at Texas A&M. I will help coach the ‘23 and ‘24 teams while working on my master’s degree in ruminant nutrition. After that I’d like to pursue a doctorate in ruminant nutrition and focus my research on beef cattle sustainability. I would say livestock judging has played a huge role in setting a foundation for my future career, especially the next two years of it. 

What was your favorite thing about being on the team?

Unquestionably, my favorite part was visiting different operations all over the country. The hospitality that each producer showed us throughout my time at Texas A&M solidified in my mind how important our industry is — and the value of the people who make it up.

What was it like to be reserve national champions?

I’ll just be honest, when we were announced as reserve national champions, it was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. I was completely crushed. I felt that all my hard work meant nothing because we were second. I am as competitive as they come and so are my teammates and coaches, so I knew the feeling was mutual. I now know that feeling was selfish.

I know many people would have rejoiced to have been in the position that we were in, but in the moment, I wanted to win more than anything. Out of the 5,000 points that make up a single contest, we were one point away from all of our dreams coming true, so at first it was pretty disappointing.

However, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and if it doesn’t break you it’s meant to make you stronger. I think that’s exactly what happened. I placed fifth high individually, wrapping up my career with nine top 10 finishes. It meant a lot to be among the best of the best in the country. I was also named an All American, something I’m most proud of. I work hard to maintain my GPA, judge at a high level and still be involved on campus. I feel this award speaks on behalf of what I have accomplished over the last three years. 

What advice would you give to future students interested in joining a collegiate judging team?

Do it, don’t look back and give it all you have. I’ve never heard anyone who regretted joining the livestock judging team, but I’ve heard hundreds of people who said it changed their life. So, if you are on the line of deciding, I can’t stress enough to take the step of joining the team. 

2022 Livestock Judging Team

Members of the 2022 Livestock Judging Team pose with coaches, mentors and trophies won at the State Fair of Texas contest.
2022 Texas A&M Livestock Judging Team

The 2022 team was comprised of a variety of students from the College. They not only  represented their team with their hard work and dedication, they also positively represented the college.

  • *Carter Burgin ’23, Department of Agricultural Economics, Spearman.
  • *Gunner Crawford ’23, Department of Animal Science, Adamstown, Maryland.
  • Seth Hilfiker ’23, Department of Animal Science, Holtville, California.
  • Kenzy Hoffmann ’22, Department of Animal Science, New Braunfels.
  • Gage Hogan ’23, Department of Animal Science, Sterling City.
  • Logan Jackson ’23, Department of Poultry Science, Eastland.
  • *Katie Kempen ’23, Department of Animal Science, San Antonio.
  • Kristen Massingill ’23, Department of Animal Science, Hamilton.
  • Emma Mercer ’23, Department of Animal Science, Hyattville, Wyoming.
  • Brook Nervig ’23, Department of Animal Science, Roscoe.
  • Mason Pape ’23, Department of Animal Science, Justin.
  • Michael Rezendes ’23, Department of Animal Science, Madera, California.
  • *Maddie Schroeder ’23, Department of Agricultural Economics, Columbia City, Indiana
  • *Lauren Thomas ’23, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, Raymondville.
  • *Logan Thomas ’23, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. Raymondville.
  • *Tar Tut ’23, Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, Faribault, Minnesota.

* Academic All-American — 10 total are awarded for their academic success, community service, university involvement and industry involvement. Texas A&M had seven of the 10.

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