More than 85 students and their coaches from 12 universities are traveling to Virginia Tech Thursday, April 6, to participate in the three-day All-East Intercollegiate Livestock Evaluation, Selection, and Judging Contest hosted by the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This is the first time in 16 years that Virginia Tech has hosted the annual contest and is the first one that Virginia Tech students have had an opportunity to compete in this judging season, which began in January. The All-East Contest rotates to a different university in the eastern United States each year.

“Livestock judging and evaluation contests such as the one we are hosting help students develop critical thinking and decision-making skills,” said Dan Eversole, associate professor of animal and poultry sciences and contest coordinator. “Students are not only learning how to evaluate livestock, but are developing skills that they will be able to use for a lifetime, no matter what profession they choose.”

The competition is divided into three separate contests. The first challenges the evaluative abilities of undergraduate students in determining carcass parameters important for assessing the value of meat animal species. The carcass parameters include the evaluation of external fat thickness, loin eye area, lean-cut yield, and calculated live-market value.

During the second contest, the keep/cull and ranking portion of the competition, contestants will evaluate breeding animal performance and a class scenario by assessing and prioritizing both subjective and objective information important to meat animal species.

The third and last event will feature a livestock judging contest. Each participant will judge 12 classes of livestock (five cattle, four swine, and three sheep) and will have to support his/her placing on placements in eight of the 12 classes by giving oral reasons. The contest will be followed by an awards breakfast on Sunday, where individual and team awards will be presented.

Students will evaluate more than 100 head of livestock during the three-day event. The university will provide more than half of the livestock and Virginia Tech alumni and supporters are providing the other half. “We would not be able to host such an event without having quality livestock and facilities to showcase them,” said Eversole. “We are very fortunate to have a facility like the Alphin-Stuart Arena to host an event as large as the All-East Contest.”

“The contest gives students an insight about the livestock industries,” said animal and poultry sciences senior Jared Burner. “It basically gives you a jump start on the real world. It’s also a great way to meet people from other schools who share similar interests.” Burner participated in the contest last year when it was hosted at the University of Tennessee-Martin and will serve as a group leader for this year’s contestants.

The universities expected to compete include: Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University, University of Illinois, Purdue University, West Virginia University, Western Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, McNeese State University, North Carolina State University, University of Tennessee, University of Arkansas, and Virginia Tech.