We caught up with market lamb judge Brandon Morgan before he steps “Inside the Ring” at the Illinois State Fair Junior Show. We invite you to read our candid interview with Brandon below and please continue to check back often for our next edition of “Inside the Ring.”
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND CURRENT INVOLVEMENT IN THE SHEEP INDUSTRY?
I was raised in a livestock family in Holdenville, Oklahoma. Pigs were our primary focus, as well as a small club calf operation. During my senior year, I elected to show sheep so that my high school career would be inclusive of having exhibited every species; swine, beef and sheep. I enjoyed showing sheep and realized in hind sight that I should have gotten involved sooner.
After I graduated from Oklahoma State University, I began working for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service in Ballinger, Texas. It was this first job where I gained my biggest exposure to the sheep industry, show lamb and the commercial side of sheep. I oversaw fifty 4-H members with sheep projects. And what a great experience as I learned right along with the youth. Today I am the Agriculture Education Instructor at Newcastle High School in Newcastle, Oklahoma. I supervise FFA and 4-H members with their sheep and goat projects. And as a Dad, my daughter, currently exhibits both goats and sheep. .
WHAT PERSON/PEOPLE INFLUENCED OR HELPED TO SHAPE YOUR VIEW ON WHAT THE IDEAL SHEEP SHOULD POSSESS?
Having not grown up in the sheep industry, it is hard to pinpoint one person that has solely influenced me. My Ag teacher Daren Slater introduced me to showing sheep. My Dad and Jary Douglas at NEO A&M College, taught me to appreciate quality livestock in all species. Allen Hybsha saw something in me and probably bolstered my sheep judging career as much as anyone.
WHERE DID YOU ATTEND COLLEGE AND WHAT AWARDS DID YOU ACHIEVE WHEN JUDGING IN COLLEGE?
I first attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, where I was part of the Junior College National Champions. From there, I attended Oklahoma State University, where our team won Reserve National Champions. During my collegiate judging career, I earned top 10 individual awards at The National Western, The Cow Palace, NAILE, Houston, Fort Worth, Shreveport, Tulsa, Wichita, Fort Smith and the Dixie National.
WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL SORTS WHEN EVALUATING MARKET LAMBS?
I realize that high quality animals can come in different shapes and sizes. I like good looking, well balanced, structurally correct sheep that handle well. I think that it is important that any animal is proportionate and built strong at the ground. I am not a stuck on a specific weight or frame size, as long as they match each other. I like sheep that travel well and hold themselves together on the move. I like to watch them come at me and go away, because I believe that base width and rib shape are true indicators of power. It is no secret that I am probably more critical on top shape than most.
WHAT’S THE BEST LAMB YOU HAVE EVER SEEN OR JUDGED?
That’s a tough question, I find it hard to pinpoint just one best lamb. I have been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of great sheep. As far as the most dominant sheep at an elite show, I would have to say the 2019 Grand Champion at the National Western Livestock Show. On that day, he was a man among boys.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FACING THE
LAMB INDUSTRY TODAY?
In terms of the show lamb industry, I think that it is important that we keep our focus on our youth. Sometimes we get caught up in the banners and lose sight of the life lessons of our children. I believe that the two greatest places that a person can raise a child is in church and in the barn.
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST PET PEEVE IN THE SHOW RING?
Sometimes kids focus on their style of showmanship, rather than their priority of offering the best presentation of their animal. I believe that the difference between a good showman and a great showman, is one that can overcome their adversities and still get the job done.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE NOTICE MOST ABOUT YOU?
I think that it is imperative that we keep the upmost integrity and professionalism when we step into the ring. Being invited as a Livestock Judge is an honor and a privilege, and I take it very seriously. I know the tremendous amount of work, effort, time and finances that the youth put into their projects. I hope that people sitting ringside will see that I am fair and consistent with each and every exhibitor.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD?
I could eat steak for every meal.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU ENJOY DOING THAT DOES NOT INVOLVE LIVESTOCK?
I am a big Oklahoma State University Fan. Anytime that I have the opportunity to watch the Cowboys, I am all in.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VACATION SPOT?
My daughter Kaitlyn loves Sea World. We have been four times in her 11 years.