Front row, left to right: Mikalah Collins; Ashley Knox; Abby Knox; and Dr. Craig Coufal, coach. Back row, left to right: Jacob Leopold, assistant coach; Wyatt Forrest; Daniel De Leon, assistant coach; and Madison Vestal. (Sara Landis/University of Arkansas Communications)
By Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife
Texas A&M University’s collegiate poultry judging team won first place at the 53rd National Collegiate Poultry Judging Contest at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville Nov. 6.
Dr. Craig Coufal, team coach and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service poultry specialist, College Station, said the team placed first in egg judging and second in meat judging to win the overall competition by a significant margin. The team finished eight points from first place in the meat division for a clean sweep.
The team includes freshman Madison Vestal and sophomores Mikalah Collins, Ashley Knox, Abby Knox and Wyatt Forrest.
“It was a great win for the team,” Coufal said. “Our team did an excellent job and was very consistent across all aspects of the competition.”
Coufal said the team is made up of five students who are the top performers among dozens in a poultry judging course in the department of poultry sciences. The students learn to rank live commercial chickens’ and turkeys’ characteristics, such as skeletal and meat development, to determine which birds would be most productive.
They also rank laying chickens, including pullets, which are young female birds judged on their potential to lay eggs; and hens, which are ranked according team members’ predictions of the birds that were the most productive egg layers thus far.
Team members also grade eggs and processed carcasses according to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, such as Grade A certification for meats.
The poultry judging team is comprised of undergraduate students who take a credited judging course, Coufal said. The students receive evaluations in each class as they rank the various poultry divisions with the five-member team comprised of the top performers over the semester.
“Every day in class is a contest for the students,” he said. “It’s eight to nine weeks of hard practice and learning how to evaluate poultry.”
This is the poultry judging team’s 16th national championship in 20 collegiate judging contests over the past decade. The team consistently ranks at the top or near the top in collegiate judging competitions that grade eggs and poultry carcasses and evaluate live birds.
Coufal praised the efforts of the team’s prior poultry team coaches and the two assistant coaches, seniors Daniel De Leon and Jacob Leopold, who have competed on Texas A&M’s collegiate judging team before and assist with the poultry judging class and mentoring team members for competition.
“The strength of the Texas A&M poultry judging team has been established over decades by great coaches and assistant coaches, and by our faculty and staff involvement in very strong 4-H and FFA youth programs that teach the basics at a very young age,” Coufal said. “There’s a lot of credit to spread around.”
This article by Adam Russell originally appeared in AgriLife Today.