The ITLA Show Program: You Should be the Judge!

By: Darol Dickinson - Dickinson Cattle Co. Inc.

In the early years of ITLA it was a major undertaking to design a new and effective show system. In the past, longhorn shows were plagued with inconsistencies, fairness concerns, and hard-fought decisions of every kind. An all-out effort by the elected leaders of ITLA to develop a better show system and overcome the historic negative show stigmas became the main agenda issue at every board meeting. Today's smooth running shows with over forty ITLA-approved judges did not evolve without serious study, testing and dedication by a number of concerned, serious Texas Longhorn producers.

Early shows were criticized for inconsistencies. One judge was a longhorn producer, one a college instructor, and another an all-breed extension agent. One cow could be a show champion and the next show she was last in her class. Everyone knew something was wrong. These are just some of the problems that needed to be dealt with.

The board of directors approved numerous improvements while inventing the modem ITLA show program. Some ideas came from horse and dog show procedures, and others from years of just plain experience. Materials were developed to help entry-level show managers, judges and exhibitors find a consistent starting point. The following ITLA efforts, although not etched in stone, are tools to make showing longhorn cattle fun, fair and profitable, and provide a level playing field for all.

1. THE STANDARDIZED RULE BOOK is one of the shortest of its kind in the livestock industry. There is a belief that a rule book for ITLA people only has to be a few pages long to set the ground rules. Good judgment and fan- minded people can take it from there.

2. THE ITLA EVENT PROMOTION MANUAL has everything necessary to promote a show with the local or national media. A show/media press secretary can follow this simple manual and even with a small budget get a good crowd to attend the show.

3. THE SHOW ANNOUNCER'S DIALOGUE tells a first-time show announcer to inform the crowd and professionally promote the breed throughout the show.

4. THE SHOW ORGANIZER KIT is a check list of everything you'll need to plan and execute a smooth show, including: music recommendations to create mood; recommendations for ITLA judge selection; behavior for show ring judges; sample entry forms; providing for the judges' needs; organizing volunteers; ring stewards, officials and management plan; show sponsorships and show funding; show entry solicitation; show announcer; show media/press secretary; judges' resumes; and goals for ITLA members during longhorn shows.

ITLA Judges' Clinics have been held 19 times to date in eleven states and Canadian provinces. Each clinic is a full day of hands-on study. 200 photos of defects and correct conformation are presented for serious evaluation. Future judges learn to identify pure and non-pure longhorn traits. Clinics are sponsored by individuals and ITLA affiliates. The fee charged to attend covers the cost of a Judge's manual and usually lunch. These clinics are not only for those who desire to become ITLA-approved judges, but also for every serious longhorn producer who wish to sharpen their eye.

The ITLA Judge's Manual sells for $19 from the office or can be purchased for $25 with a full day's clinic. Anyone can appreciate the accumulated data and its importance. The manual is 52 pages, with chapters on: Becoming an ITLA Judge; Organizational Structure; Approved Judges List; Anatomy Chart; the ITLA Judging Point System; Judge Apprenticeship; Horn Growth Illustrations; Judging Diverse Types; Presenting Reasons; and Structural Correctness. This information is the basis of the Judges' Clinic, with a color slide presentation that illustrates the numerous points of anatomy.

Today over forty ITLA-approved judges have completed the clinic and received board of director approval. They represent sixteen US states and Canada. From the first, the plan was designed to develop qualified judges who are ITLA members and successful, experienced Texas Longhorn producers. These are the experienced people who know the breed, appreciate these special cattle, and are skilled at identifying valuable cattle that in turn win shows. The presentation of POSITIVE REASONS is a skill developed in these clinics to enhance the value of the top cattle. Very few, if any, negative comments will be made by approved judges about the lower placing.

The ITLA Point System is a total of 100 points. It is an effort to identify all the major and minor sections of the longhorn anatomy and place a value on every individual part. This point system has helped to create consistency among all approved judges, yet not restrict individual judgments based on each judge's personal experience.

The ITLA Merit System was developed to acknowledge outstanding show success for accumulation of points won in all regions of North America. Although many people don't have the ability to compete in the annual ITLA Championship Show, they can win regional awards. The previous show system held every championship show in Texas. ITLA now has a policy that the national show will be held in various locations to allow all producers all over the longhorn industry to conveniently exhibit. ITLA championship shows have been held in Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma and six different locations in Texas.

To appreciate the dedication and long-term planning applied over the last fifteen years to design a fair and professional show system, check it out for yourself. Attend an ITLA approved show, organize your own ITLA show, attend a Judges' Clinic, order the above mentioned materials from the ITLA office, and for sure, be absolutely positive your ITLA Membership stays up to date, and that you continue to be a part of this organized stampede!