Arkfeld travels from fair to fair judging

August 1, 2018

MITCHELL — Pat Arkfeld stands in the midst of a cluster of hogs that crisscross around the small arena, trotters kicking up sawdust while their owners guide them with prods. He moves from the center of the arena to the sides, looking the hogs over, watching the way each 4-Her or FFA student leads the animal. After a few minutes looking the animals over, he begins to decide which animals get which ribbons, offering advice and tips along the way.

Arkfeld, the assistant livestock judging coach and cow herd manager at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, has judged livestock at the Scotts Bluff County Fair both last year and this year. Throughout the summer, he travels from fair to fair, contest to contest, using the skills he’s learned to judge

“Growing up raising hogs, you get used to judging,” he said. “Here and there, people call on you to judge shows. I went to college on a full-ride livestock judging scholarship, and from there you get connections to county fairs, state fairs and national shows to judge.”

Tuesday morning, he was judging market hogs. The baseline requirement for market hogs, Arkfeld said, requires them to be a mix of muscled and lean “because nobody likes a lot of fat.”

“Once they hit the basics of having muscle and being lean, we want them good looking and be able to move,” he said. “A lot goes into it, but the basics is that they have to be built right and good in their skeleton, have muscle, and have the right composition of fat.”

Personally, Arkfeld likes to see as much muscle as possible on a hog, “as long as we’re not pushing the limits and they’re limping or lame. My ideal hog is that they’re good looking with more than enough muscle, but are still able to move.”

Those priorities change in different contests. Breeding hogs, for example, have much higher requirements for structure.

“Since you’re hopefully going to be keeping them for many years, structure goes up,” Arkfeld said. “You want them to be able to move. Then you worry about muscle, and then fat composition.”

After the Scotts Bluff County Fair, he’ll be headed to Wheatland, Wyoming, then to Loveland, Colorado. This year, he’ll hit up 15 to 20 competitions, judging a lot of 4-H and FFA competitions.

“Good kids are hard to come by nowadays,” he said. “Every county fair, it seems, has really good kids, and (Scotts Bluff) is no exception. They have awesome kids in this county: they’re very courteous and very polite and very intelligent. I just like interacting with them.”

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