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Marvin Ensor

This edition of A Few Minutes is with Marvin Ensor from San Angelo, Texas, the market judge for the Ohio State Fair Junior Market Lamb Show. Enjoy reading our candid interview with Mr. Marvin Ensor and be sure to check back for more state fair judge interviews!

What is your background and current involvement in the sheep industry?
I grew up in Bronte, a small rural community in West Texas.  I was active in the 4-H and FFA programs and my family raised registered Rambouillet sheep.  We began raising club lambs after I started high school.  I exhibited breeding sheep and market lambs at local, regional and major shows.

My wife and I have three daughters and they exhibited market lambs along with other species while in 4-H.   We had a small flock of Hampshire cross ewes and showed some of the lambs we raised.  My youngest daughter graduated from high school in 2007. 

Currently, I partner with Pat Jackson on a small flock of Hampshire cross ewes. Our primary focus has been to raise the type of rams Pat needs to raise crossbred lambs.  Pat raises finewool (Rambouillet) and finewool cross club lambs.

How does your current operation effect what you look for when evaluating sheep?  
As a sheep breeder, I’m always searching for the next piece of the puzzle within a genetic pool.  I don’t think my breeding program effects what I select when judging a market lamb show.  It probably heightens my appreciation for lambs that are superior in their total composition of desired traits, recognizing how difficult this is to produce.

What person/people influenced or helped to shape your view on what the ideal sheep should possess?
Many individuals have helped shape my view on what traits the ideal sheep should possess.  If I tried to list a few of the most influential, I’d likely leave some people out.  My Dad was the person that influenced me the most when I was young and I inherited his enthusiasm for the sheep industry and the livestock show program. 

Where did you attend college and what awards did you achieve while judging in college?
I attended Angelo State University for two years before transferring to Texas Tech University.  I received my bachelor and master degrees from Texas Tech University.  I was a member of the livestock judging team at Angelo State University but I had to leave the team prior to our first contest because of personal reasons. I would have enjoyed the opportunity to compete and meet other individuals with a passion for livestock.

What are your initial sorts when evaluating market lambs?
I look for lambs that have adequate muscle and are within an acceptable range in fat cover. Structure and balance are also considered on the initial sort.

What would you consider an acceptable fat and weight range?  
I evaluate market lambs using basically the same criteria regardless of the time of year.  I recognize the challenges associated with feeding for some shows, considering show dates and typical lambing season(s),
but market lambs must be evaluated as “market” ready.

I prefer a range of .15 to .25 in fat cover.  I appreciate lambs with a fresh handle, but it’s also important to consider the industry’s standards and avoid problems with excessive fat cover and high yield grades.

I’m reluctant to make a statement regarding an acceptable weight range. Most of the lambs shown today are within a range acceptable to the industry.     

Do you consider yourself more of a handle judge or a profile judge? 
Neither, I see both as very important. 

What’s your biggest pet peeve in the show ring?
When exhibitors, especially seniors, are constantly looking for their “coach” and are not adequately focused on what’s happening in the show ring.  An exhibitor may receive help or confirmation from outside the ring, but it should be somewhat discreet.  Exhibitor confidence is critical and grows with experience and making decisions in the show ring. 

What’s the best lamb you have ever seen? What is the best lamb you have ever judged
The first three that come to mind from shows I’ve judged are the 2012 Grand Champion Lamb at the Southwestern Livestock Show (Ft. Worth) followed by the 2012 Reserve Grand Champion Lamb at Ft. Worth and the 2007 Grand Champion Market Lamb (4-H) at the California State Fair.  The 2012 Grand Champion Lamb at Ft Worth combined the desired traits to the highest degree, including tremendous eye appeal and balance.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the sheep industry today?
Some of the challenges the sheep industry faces today includes predation, changes in land ownership and use, educating the public (ag literacy), ag policy, markets and the infrastructure needs of the industry.  Youth involved in the 4-H and FFA livestock program should look for opportunities to educate their friends, classmates, and the general public on the facts about agriculture and the sheep industry.  The industry continues to change, but the demand for lamb will remain strong and I see a bright future for the sheep industry.

You can go anywhere on a week long vacation, where would you go and who would you take with you? 
Alaska or Australia.  I would take my wife and possibly some close friends.

What is your all-time favorite food?
Prime rib dinner

Thanks Marvin for your time!