TUCSON - To get the real story on the quality of the meat on the animals they raised, 4-H members from Mohave County traveled to Tucson to participate in the 32nd Annual Mohave County 4-H Carcass Contest.
Judging live animals on the hoof, as is done at the county fair, is very different from judging carcasses on the rail, said 4-H Extension Agent Gerald Olson. Livestock judges judging on the hoof cannot see through the hide of the animal, so they must rely on their experiences and knowledge to place the animals. But after the animals are sent to market and the hide is off, that's when the real story is told, Olson said. All of the Award of Merit carcasses were exceptional quality, but because of the strict judging criteria used, only the very, very best received awards, Olson said.
The carcass contest was developed to help members evaluate their exercise and feeding programs with the final finished meat product.
Dr. John Marchello from the University of Arizona, Meat Science Department, evaluated the beef, sheep, goat and swine carcasses according to strict standards and modern grading criteria of the meat industry.
Marchello said the marbling on the hogs was "just what we are looking for."
Lukas Ortiz of the Kingman FFA received the Top Placing Swine of Merit Award. One hundred percent of the swine in the contest received Swine of Merit awards. Others receiving Swine of Merit awards (in award order) were: Kylie Tomlinson, Bent Bucket Bunch 4-H Club; Tahne Siyuja, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Raven Honga, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Samantha Sullivan, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Ellie Thomas, Big Sandy 4-H Club; Darlea Guthrie, Kingman FFA; Baylee Hammond, Thundering Hooves 4-H Club; Tyleen Manuel, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Trey Honga, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Austen Levandowski, Kingman FFA; Logan Williams, Kingman FFA; Justin Studer, Horse-N-Around 4-H Club; Raven Honga, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Dylan Pelham, Cedar Hills 4-H Club; Catrina Noble, Thundering Hooves 4-H Club; Catrina Noble, Thundering Hooves 4-H Club; Breanna Ball, Kingman FFA; Samantha Sullivan, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Mathew Pendley, Black Mountain 4-H Club; Eric Green, Kingman FFA; Tatiana Studer, Horse-N-Around 4-H Club; and Brandon Moore, Kingman FFA.
Justina Kelly of the Buck N Doe 4-H Club raised the Top Placing Lamb-of-Merit Award, one of eight in the contest, as 72 percent of the lambs graded Lamb of Merit. Others receiving lamb awards in order of Merit were Daniel Duran, Stockton Hill Herd 4-H Club; Michael Montoya, Fancy Feathers & Furs 4-H Club; Tori Hosler, Stockton Hill Herd 4-H Club; Say Moser, Stockton Hill Herd 4-H Club; Jozua Fielding, Buck-N-Doe 4-H Club; Avory Row, Kingman FFA; and Austyn Burt, Jolly Ranches 4-H Club.
Tatiana Studer of the Horse-N-Around 4-H Club raised the Top Goat of Merit along with Dalton Smith of Roper, Riders & Critters 4-H Club raising the other in the contest, making it 100 percent Goat of Merit awards winners.
Austin Bracken of the Bent Bucket Bunch 4-H Club received the top Steer of Merit Award for his 733-pound carcass. Drew Parker of the Outlaws 4-H Club also received the Steer of Merit Award.
In order for beef carcasses to receive a Steer of Merit Award, they had to have a ribeye size of at least 1.6 square inches per 100 pounds of carcass weight, yield grade not over 3.0, and a final carcass grade of select 70 or better. Also used to evaluate beef carcasses were fat thickness, cut ability and hot carcass weight.
Swine carcass competing for the Swine of Merit Award had to have a back fat thickness less than 1.0 inches, a minimum carcass length of 29.5 inches, 55 per cent or more muscling, and muscle color had to range from 2 to 4.
To receive a Lamb of Merit Award, lambs needed to have a leg of lamb of specified size, a yield grade not to exceed 2.6, and the final carcass grade had to be Choice 50 or above.
It's a difficult job to balance the amount of feed and exercise to obtain a carcass with just the right amount of marbling and not too much fat, Marchello said, and that during the years he had been judging the contest, the quality of the animals has improved greatly and it appears the members are obviously doing their homework in regards to feeding and caring for their animals.
"These are some very outstanding animals and the members have been doing their homework as it relates to raising a market animal," Marchello said.