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Josh Cody

This edition of A Few Minutes is with Josh Cody from Royse City, Texas, the market judge for the Kansas State Fair Market Lamb Show. Enjoy reading our candid interview with Mr. Josh Cody and be sure to check back for more state fair judge interviews!

What is your background and current involvement in the sheep industry?
I was raised in Winters, California, a rural farming community located in Northern California and was exposed to the sheep industry through local 4-H and FFA programs.  My high school ag teacher and I were involved in raising purebred Hampshire Frame Sheep which later developed into a club lamb operation in the late 90’s.  After high school, I attended Modesto Junior College and then transferred to Texas Tech University.  Currently my wife, Ashley, and I raise and sell Hampshire seed stock and club lambs in the North Texas area.  I have also had the privilege  to serve as an official for many of the intercollegiate livestock judging contests, such as Denver, Fort Worth, State Fair of Texas, Houston, and most recently the National 4-H Contest in Louisville, KY.

How does your current operation effect what you look for when evaluating sheep?
This is a tough question!  I believe that the show lamb industry as a whole is a hobby industry. Especially in regards to the medium wool breeds. There are only a handful of breeders that truly make a living raising medium wool breeds.  However in Texas, there are many more Finewool, Finewool Cross and Hair Sheep breeders that have enough land as well as stock to make it a livelihood.  Alternatively throughout the U.S. there are few niche breeders that can still rely on raising sheep as a sole source of income.  Unfortunately, the show lamb industry and the commercial industry are not parallel.  In our small production setting, we have some pretty extreme ewes that generally lie down and have really nice lambs, but when it comes to their ability to maintain adequate body condition, they have a tougher time.  On the other hand, we have some really productive ewes that traditionally have lambs that are plain and common in their build but their dam’s are much easier doing.  As a result, I find myself placing greater emphasis on selecting sheep in the show ring that are unique and hard to make.  This might refer to sheep that are shallow chested with acceptable muscle and width as well as sheep that are overwhelmingly thick and wide but are acceptable in their chest and rib depth.  Either product is desirable and unique in their own way, as long as they have the right kind of body shape, skeletal quality and handling traits that correlate respectively.  As a judge, I have become more open minded to the fact that it is very hard to find a great one at every show and as a breeder, it is even harder to breed a great one, therefore I strive to select lambs that have a “show winning look”. 

What person/people influenced or helped to shape your view on what the ideal sheep should possess? 
I have had many influences in regards to what is ideal during the selection process.  Beginning with my high school agriculture instructor (Kent Benson), then I was exposed to (John Nicewonger) and (Clay Weber) at Modesto Junior College as well as (Clay Elliot) at Texas Tech University.  I cannot say that one is more influential than the other.  Each of these individual’s bring a different element to the table.  At the end of the day, I strive to utilize each of their priorities to determine an answer.

Where did you attend college and what awards did you achieve while judging in college?
TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY – Some of my awards include: 1st -Express Cattle, 8th – Arizona Nationals, 4th – Fort Worth, 10th – American Royal, and 1st- Cow Palace.  I was also top 5 in reasons at all of the National Contests.

What are your initial sorts when evaluating market lambs? 
After initially handling each animal, I will further inspect them from the side profile.  I will then place more emphasis on balance as it pertains to distribution of body weight.  I have a hard time sorting sheep up when they are deep chested and high flanked, and flat ended.

When you get down to those top end lambs, what separates them for you?
When I get to the top five, I will further evaluate overall muscle as it pertains to shape and volume of muscle.  I will also pay close attention to structural integrity on the move and skeletal quality while standing in their natural state (with no brace).  If it gets closer, I will focus on handling quality (hide, freshness, touch).

What would you consider an acceptable fat range and weight range for a September show?
.15 – .2   I do not try to set parameters as it pertains to weight, I will strive to use the best one (big or little).

What’s your biggest pet peeve in the show ring?
Kids slapping their lambs to get them to brace.

Do you consider yourself more of a handle judge or a profile judge?
Neither! Both are important. 

What’s the best lamb you have ever seen? 
Medium Wools – Erica Walker’s Grand Champion at San Antonio
Finewool Cross – Dottie Cook’s Breed Champion at San Antonio

What do you think is the most important issue facing the sheep industry today?
If you live in Texas the drought has forced many producers to reduce their flock size due to input costs such as feed, labor and lack of precipitation.  Younger generations are having a more difficult time financing land and acquiring enough sheep to get involved.

Who do you consider was a major influence in your judging career? 
Kent Benson (Winters FFA) He gave me an appreciation for livestock husbandry as well as evaluation.

You’ve got one night to go anywhere in the country and watch one band, where is it and who you watching?
Waylon Jennings – Anywhere
What is your favorite place to vacation?
Anywhere with a golf course!

Who is one of your favorite people to watch judge and why?
Kim Brock!  He describes livestock in a very educational way.  He can talk to a crowd and captivate his audience by describing what he sees.  Generally speaking, what he says and what he sees fits.  I have tried to make this a priority when I discuss a class.  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with my emphasis and priorities, I hope that what I say and what I see match.

Thanks Josh for your time!