Former South O’Brien FFA Member Continues Success at Collegiate Level

Former South O’Brien FFA Member Continues Success at Collegiate Level

By Alec Schoof

Former South O’Brien FFA Member Continues Success at Collegiate Level

Eric Koehlmoos is a Jr. at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas where he is majoring in agriculture education with a minor in animal science. Previously at South O’Brien, he was an active member of the FFA Chapter. Eric was involved in the meats judging program during his FFA career at South O’Brien. Initially, Advisor, Eric Kumm influenced his participation in the meats judging program. Ultimately his commitment to a superior meats judging program at South O’Brien served as the catalyst for Eric knowing that he wanted to continue participating in meats judging competitions. Knowing that he could continue his involvement in meats judging and be on some really competitive teams was part of the reason that Eric chose to attend Kansas State University.

Koehlmoos has been on the meats judging team at Kansas State for 1 ½ years. The Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program starting in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago. Subsequently, contests have been held every year, with the exception of the World War II years of 1942-1945. Meat judging is more than determining the quality and lean meat yield of a carcass or wholesale cut. The program also serves as a training tool for developing young leaders in the meat and livestock industries. It is a competitive event for youth through collegiate age students featuring participants with a general knowledge of meat evaluation skills. More importantly, these events develop the individuals that will lead the meat and livestock industries into the future.

Collegiate Meats Judging is very similar to High School Meats Judging. Participants judge classes of beef, pork, and lamb based on trimness, muscling quality, and aspects of quality and yield grade. Judging features fifteen carcasses that are based on like choice steak or prime steak. Next, a significant portion of the contest is writing reasons about why you placed the class the way you did. Specifications are another portion of the judging contest. During this section, contestants make sure the final product meets all the specifications for allowing sale of the product to the public through the wholesaler or packing plant.

The biggest difference between high school meats and college meats is the retail cut identification (ID) portion of the contest. In high school, it is the major portion of your points, which is essentially where you win the contest. In college meats you no longer have an ID section, and reasons are the major area of the contest that is the factor for winning or losing. Eric states that in college meats judging, reasons and specs were the two new things that he had to pick up. Reasons is one of Eric’s favorite things to do. To conclude the difficulty level increases about tenfold between high school and college.

At Kansas State, Eric is on the Senior College Division team that competes against eighteen to twenty different universities. In a typical year, the team competes in nine contests: National Western, Iowa State, Missouri Meat Processors, Southeastern, Eastern National, National Barrows Shows, American Royal, Cargill High Plains, and North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE – International). These contests start at Denver in January, and end in Louisville in November of the same calendar year. Eric explains that getting to see most of the United States was an added bonus to being part of his college judging team. This included eastern Pennsylvania to New York to west Texas. Eric emphasized that checking out New York City was a blast. He pointed out that you are able to see a wide variety of agriculture, all present throughout the country. “So it’s like you get to see a whole bunch of different territory in a fifteen – passenger van.”

In November, the Collegiate Meats Judging year concluded a the NAILE International in Louisville, Kentucky. At NAILE, Eric’s Kansas State team won the honor of Reserve National Champion. Individually at this event, which is termed their National Championships, Eric won 3rd high overall and was named 1st team All-American. Throughout the year, Eric’s team also won Champion honors at Southeastern and the National Barrow Show. Eric starts listing his individual accolades by indicating that he was high individual at the Iowa State Invitational, adding “that was good winning at home.” He was 2nd high individual at Southeastern, 3rd at the National Barrow Show, and 5th place individual at Cargill High Plains in Friona, Texas.

Starting in January of 2018, Eric plans on competing on the Livestock Judging Team at Kansas State. He clarified the animal science judging bylaws which state that you can only be on a judging team for one calendar year. It’s based on the livestock system where you start at Western Nationals in Denver and end at the NAILE International in Louisville. Both meats judging and livestock judging follow the same judging bylaws and calendar year. According to Eric, he is now a Meats Judging Alumni, but still looks forward to being part of the livestock and evaluation team at Kansas State.

After having success in high school, Eric knew that he wanted to judge meats and livestock in college. He is grateful for the start that Eric Kumm gave him. Again, Eric verified that part of his reason for choosing Kansas State was to be part of some really competitive meats and livestock judging teams. Eric summarized his experience, “I would just say that being on a college judging team has been an exciting experience and its one that you learn a lot about working together as a team and also you learn a bunch about yourself. As many ex-great judgers as we’ve had here at South O’Brien, it’s definitely a good opportunity to take and develop leadership skills and communication skills – what make you a better person.


Former South O’Brien FFA Member Continues Success at Collegiate Level

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