What is it that makes one pen of rabbits superior to a different pen?

Why is one exhibitor’s goat better than another goat?

Although all participants showing animals through 4-H and FFA learn about judging, those who enter the student-judging contest receive additional insight and hands-on experience.

“Ag teachers got together and picked four of each animal – breeding and markets – for us to judge,” said Red Oak High School junior and FFA member Brian Lovgren said of the process. “The judges place (the animals) how they are supposed to be placed and our answer should match theirs.”

The contest that took place during the Ellis County Youth Expo on Thursday morning included about 20 junior judges (age 13 years and younger) and about 15 senior judges (age 14 and older high school students).

Lovgren, who participated in the event for the first time, said he did it “for the experience.”

“I’ve been raising pigs all my life,” he said, explaining that his older brother and sister raised them, too, and that he showed his first pig at age 6.

“I’ve got the pigs down,” said Lovgren, who believes that through his years of experience with pigs he understands the process of raising, showing and judging them.

“But I wanted to see how I’d do with other animals,” he said.

Lovgren, who raises goats as well – but not for show – said his favorite thing about FFA and the expo is, “Everybody’s good people, friendly. I know a lot of people out here.”

What else is good about being involved in agriculture in life and at school?

“The whole responsibility will help me out in life – or that’s what my dad keeps telling me,” Lovgren said.

Maypearl High School senior and FFA member Jayk Fullen also was a student judge for the first time this year. She raises hogs and has participated in the expo for three years.

To prepare for the student-judging contest, Fullen viewed videos at school to learn more.

“I learned about how steers, hogs and lambs are shaped and what to look for, their muscle structure,” Fullen said.

“I grew up in FFA,” she said, saying she enjoys showing as her favorite part of the program – although she’s had her share of misfortunes in that endeavor.

“Last year, my sister showed for me because I broke my leg. This year I didn’t show my pigs because they didn’t make weight,” said Fullen, who did place the first time she showed three years ago.

“My sister got second place and I got fourth place with our hogs that year,” Fullen said.

Mallory Cornett raises horses, dogs, donkeys, goats, hogs and other animals. Her project at this year’s expo was a hog.

A seventh-grader at Maypearl High School and a member of Maypearl FFA, Cornett was a junior student judge for the first time this year.

“The goal is for these kids to be able to evaluate livestock, to help them with their show experience and to understand what the judge is looking for,” said Red Oak High School ag teacher Jerry Lee Lewis.

Many FFA members from Ellis County weren’t at the expo on Thursday, as they were participating in a livestock-judging event in Stephenville.

“They’re at the Tarleton Invitational for practice judging contests,” Lewis said, listing the judging events as dairy, dairy products, poultry, poultry products, livestock, horse, meats, land and range.

“All students who chose to take on a project animal or agricultural mechanics are learning valuable skills to become productive citizens and give back to the community,” Lewis said.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@wninews.com