After developing a good eye for livestock growing up on a cattle farm in Grass Valley, Graham Blagg put his skills to work in earning first place at the National Collegiate Livestock Competition this month.
“It was easily the most memorable judging contest that I’ll ever have,” Blagg said. “It was a great way to go out and finish my career. It shows that hard work really does pay off.”
The 22-year-old Nevada Union High School graduate was a part of a team of five out of 150 students from 30 universities who competed in the 107th annual National Collegiate Livestock Judging Competition at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky., in early November.
Blagg scored first place in the individual category with 966 out of 1,000 possible points, and said his success is from adamant practice with three coaches and a team of 15 members over the years.
“We would go to different producers and livestock breeders. It was very time-intensive,” Blagg said. “It’s something that we’ve been doing for three years and just involves continuous practicing and repetition.”
Blagg said he looked for, in breeding animals, structural soundness, quality, balance and how the animal looks and is put together and in market animals, muscle, compositional correctness, structural soundness, and the looks and balance of the animal.
The explanation of the animal’s qualities is part of the judging competition.
“The reasons aspect of it is extremely challenging, but in the end, when we go to the national contest and we’re successful that’s something that’s really cool,” he said.
Blagg said growing up on the cattle ranch gave him a beneficial edge in livestock judging and inspired his passion.
“My family has always raised cattle and it just kind of became a part of my life and a passion of mine,” Blagg said. “Growing up in a production setting and being around cattle gave me a huge advantage to competing in the livestock judging setting or contest and was something that was extremely beneficial to the judging, but more so to my passion to be involved in livestock and the livestock industry.”
Blagg began judging in high school when he was involved in Future Farmers of America at Nevada Union. He also competed in speaking competitions in high school, was a state finalist and went to nationals his senior year. As an FFA officer, Blagg went around California and promoted FFA and agricultural education, working with high school students and putting on conferences, for one year after graduation.
Blagg said being involved in the speaking contests and leading as an FFA officer gave him useful life skills.
“The speaking competitions, officer roles and leadership roles were bery beneficial to me in terms of public speaking, as well as decision-making, thinking on my feet, and being prepared for certain aspects whether it be college, livestock judging or career paths.”
After high school, Blagg went to Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. and was on the National Champion Junior College judging team. After two years, he transferred to Texas A&M University where he was on the livestock judging team and his team was the champion of the National Western livestock show in Denver, Colo.
Blagg said competing is part of what drives him to succeed.
“I’m an extremely competitive person and the competitive aspect fuels my fire,” Blagg said. “The competition is second to none. It’s something that keeps me involved.”
Blagg’s high school FFA teacher and coach said he was a determined student.
“Graham is very determined, hardworking and teachable,” Karen Henderson said. “He’s very excelled at raising herd for cattle. Whatever he puts his mind to, watch out, he’s going to get it done.”
Blagg’s mother, Gail, said he had taken to the family cattle business from a young age.
“He was involved in 4-H since he was five and became an FFA member,” Gail said. “Agriculture and livestock has become his whole life.”
After Blagg graduates in December 2013 from Texas A&M with a Bachelor’s in animal science, he said he plans to go to grad school and follow a career path having to do with sales of livestock products or pharmaceuticals or something involved with the purebred cattle industry, as livestock and agriculture are essential to the country.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the country. Without agriculture and livestock and different crops, America wouldn’t
have the food resources we do,” Blagg said.
“This industry has shifted in relying on youth in promoting agriculture and livestock and the best way for me to continue to promote is through the livestock industry.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.