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B Is for Bison

B Is for Bison
Posted on 01/30/2019
Devinny Elementary student Mason Rapp heads out to the bison pens at the National Western Stock Show.There were a few thousand pounds worth of 100 percent, Grade A, authentic learning here at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. In just a few minutes, those bison heifer calves, and plenty of other bison that had been making their temporary home in these stock pens would be getting judged by Jeffco students. The students are also Jeffco 4H members, and they’re taking part in the National Bison Association’s Junior Judging Contest. There was a lot of preparation before they got to this point.

“We went and visited a bison farm out in Jefferson County. Then, they were able to research and look up stuff on bison,” explained 4H mentor coordinator Lisa Stavig. “We had a lot of information from 4H on how to do the judging. They studied a lot of hours and put work into it.”

“I googled PDF’s of bison, I looked up what the market prices were, what are the best meat qualities, the best meat cuts that everybody was looking for,” said Standley Lake High School student Aspen Tolman.

“I did it just to get more experience judging because I do horse judging and I hadn’t been to a competition yet,” added Dunstan Middle School student Lilian Stavig.

Nearby, 4H members from other counties were competing for top judging honors, too.

“It was scary because there were a bunch of other kids that looked like they knew a lot more than us,” admitted Ken Caryl Middle School student Natalie Lowman.

Next, it was off to the pens, including the youngest Jeffco bison judge contestant, Mason Rapp.

“I was quite surprised by the amount of bison they had out there,” said the Devinny Elementary student.

The bison seemed quite surprised too, by the sheer number of young judges eyeing their every move.

“I was looking for meat quality on the animals,” continued Rapp. “If you’re looking for the meat, on bison, you want to look at the hindquarters mostly and also the shoulders, and you want to see not pointy ribs but slight bumps on the ribs.”

“It was a bit nerve-racking,” added Tolman. “There were others that I could barely tell them apart besides their ear tag number.”

Taking good notes was only half of it; the other half was back at the Stockyards Arena. There, the students had their findings analyzed for accuracy, before appearing in front of a panel of bison pros to justify the reasons for their scores. This gave the students an opportunity to be in front of people, learn how to speak to strangers, and how to do specific life skills like job interviewing. Overall, they were learning how to look at something and evaluate it.

“I’ve competed in 4H for a long time, so I’ve done lots of sets of reasons,” said Tolman. “That gave me a little more confidence coming in. It’s a very particular saying of how you address, ‘I placed this over this.’”

“We didn’t know quite what we were talking about. We were just doing our best, putting in terms that we had studied some,” added student Delaney Lim.

Overall, the students felt their research helped and they judged well.

“It will definitely play into my livestock career,” said Tolman. “Being able to judge different species, take my knowledge from different species and apply it to different animals.”

“It was quite exciting in my opinion!” exclaimed Rapp.

“We talked afterward, and they said that they thought I did a really good job. Either it’s a pity thing, or I did a really good job,” said Stavig. “I think they did an amazing job.”

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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