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Matt Kennedy

This edition of A Few Minutes is with Matt Kennedy from Mulhall, Oklahoma, the market judge for the New Mexico State Fair Market Lamb Show. Enjoy reading our candid interview with Mr. Matt Kennedy and be sure to check back for more judge interviews!

Why do you take the time out of your busy schedule to judge market lamb shows? 
If it weren’t for the FFA and 4-H organizations and competitive livestock showing, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have to this point in my life.  This is by far the best opportunity for young people to learn work ethic and responsibility in a competitive atmosphere, which transfers to the real world extremely well. 

What is your background and current involvement in the sheep industry?
I grew up showing sheep from an early age in south central Texas.  Throughout high school I was a member of a successful livestock judging team, which opened doors to attend both junior and senior college and judge collegiately. While at Texas A&M I was a member of the 2002 National Champion Livestock Judging Team.  Upon graduation, I was appointed herdsman at their sheep and goat facility from 2003-2007.  I then served as herdsman at the Oklahoma State University sheep barn from 2007-2013.  We currently run 150 head of wether/dam type ewes between Iowa and Oklahoma from which we sell club lambs and seed stock.

How does your current operation effect what you look for when evaluating sheep?
I was taught at all points in my life structure is by far the most important trait in raising good livestock.  We have tried diligently to not stray from those teachings and build our ewe base around females that are sound and functional. This carries over to the show ring as structure is easily my first sort. Past this I am similar to most – trying to raise good bodied ones that have muscle in an attractive package. 

What person/people influenced or helped to shape your view on what the ideal sheep should possess?
My godfather, Danny Marburger was probably the most influential, as he helped me through the years showing and taught me what good livestock was. Also, Ryan Rathman, my senior college judging team coach.  For a cattle guy he is pretty influential on my sheep judging. He taught me to see the big picture and was also one that reintegrated structural integrity. 

Where did you attend college?
I graduated from Texas A & M University in 2003 with a bachelors in Science and in 2007 with a Masters Degree. 

What are your initial sorts when evaluating market lambs? 
My initial sort is skeletal quality. They have to be good on their feet and legs, correct in their shoulder placement, and built right in their rib.  And then pack as much muscle as you can on one.

When you get down to those top end lambs, what separates them for you?
I always try to find the one that is the hardest to build. These midget, big boned ones that are todays fad, aren’t the kind that are hard to build.  It’s truly hard to make ones rib and body shape correct, make them look better walking then they do stuck, and maintain adequate muscle….those are the kind I’m looking for!

What would you consider an acceptable fat range?
Its totally dependent on weight, age, and maturity, but if I have to give a range it would be .15 to .25.

Who are some of the people you credit with helping you get where you are today?
First and formost all of my family, without them nothing would be possible.   As far as my judging career, I would have to say Mr. Terry Dumas for pushing me to sort Kansas City.

What’s the best market lamb you have ever seen?
The lamb I used to win the 2009 American Royal of Jared Whicomb’s, Champion Hamp last year at the American Royal of Caleb Strettemier’s, and Carson Vinyard’s Grand Champion at 2011 Oklahoma State Fair.

Who’s the person you must like to sit down and watch judge?
I like to sit down and watch Clay Weber. I like his idea of the right kind and he’s tremendous on the mic.  I also enjoy Kyle Smithwick. He is one of the most upstanding men I’ve ever met and he exhibits this while sorting stock.

You’ve got one night to go anywhere in the country and watch one band? Where is it and who you watching?
Jason Boland at Gruene Hall.

Who is your favorite sports team? 
Texas A&M  

What’s your biggest pet peeve in the showring?
My biggest pet peeve in the showring is excessive and poorly fitted forearm and belly wool.  As well as excessive tapping on their backs.

Do you consider yourself more of a handle judge or a profile judge?
I consider myself more of a walking judge, when I get down to those top three I am going to walk them.

What is your favorite place to vacation? 
I would love to go back to Anchorage, Alaska.

Thanks Matt for your time!