Seven Time National Champion Livestock Judging Coach to Evaluate SimGenetics at the 2014 National Western Stock Show
By Hannah Wine
January marks The Super Bowl, not only in football but also in the cattle industry, with the National Western Stock Show. With a little bit of imagination, you can see the similarities especially if you envision the display bulls in The Yards as the famous halftime show. This year Simmental breeders will gather in the Mile High City to lead cattle across the dirt of the historic Stadium Arena for judge, Ryan Rathmann.
Dr. Rathmann is a familiar face to many National Western Simmental exhibitors. He was the associate judge of the 2011 Pen Show with lead judge Donnell Brown; then lead judge of the 2012 Pen Show with associate Jon DeClerck. This year Rathmann will make two trips to Denver as coach of the Texas Tech collegiate livestock judging team, first to compete with his team and then back to evaluate the Simmental and Percentage Simmental shows on The Hill with his associate judge, Drew Perez of Nara Visa, New Mexico.
Simmental exhibitors aren’t the only cattle people who have sought Rathmann’s opinion in the show ring. “I’ve judged shows in 30 states,” Rathmann said as he drove late into the night, headed home to Lubbock, after judging a central Texas jackpot show, “A few years ago my wife went with me when I got to judge the Hawaii State Fair. That one was a pretty fun one. Judging the Calgary Stampede was another neat one. The manner in which they exhibit cattle is cool. That’s a pretty big production up there.”
The Bastrop, Texas native has always been comfortable around the cattle industry. Rathmann grew up on a family-run cow/calf operation. “We raised Maine Anjou seed stock in the early nineties but focused on the club calf side of things. I was a 4-H and FFA member, but I really focused on the Texas steer deal growing up,” Rathmann said.
Livestock evaluation became a mainstay for Rathmann when he began his educational career at Connors State College in Oklahoma before heading to Texas A&M, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and a Master’s Degree in Beef Cattle Reproduction. “While I was working on my Masters, Dr. Skaggs gave me the opportunity to coach the livestock judging team,” reflected Rathmann “Dr. Skaggs is one of my greatest mentors. He’s a class act, a true gentleman who handles things with real professionalism.” In his time as coach at Texas A&M, he led his judging team to win three consecutive national championships.
Rathmann soon ventured back to academia, this time to Texas Tech, where he pursued a PhD in Ruminant Nutrition. Now an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech, Rathmann and his wife, Kayla, along with their two young girls, live in Lubbock and run a small herd of Red Angus cows with Kayla’s father. When he’s not spending time with his family, judging a show, or practicing with his judging team, Rathmann teaches courses in animal science and coordinates the Livestock Judging Team, Meat Animal Evaluation Team, and the Beef Center. His Aggie roots are never far behind. Rathmann wears his Aggie ring as he proudly leads his Texas Tech judging team to championship after championship. On the books as the winningest coach in the history of collegiate livestock judging, he has coached seven national champion livestock judging teams.
Constantly at the top of his field, Rathmann reveals his strong roots. “I came from a humble background, as just country folks and we raised everything we showed. I truly appreciate my roots. To be on the other side and evaluate is an honor,” he said. “You’re going to get my legitimate opinion anywhere I judge. You’re going to hear about the cattle regardless of who you are. With my judging team kids, I want them to learn to stick with what your heart says and treat people right. Conviction and confidence in your abilities will carry you. Most importantly, the show ring should be a positive experience for the youth,” he said, “I’ve always greatly admired Dan Hoge for his ability to make even the last placed kid in a class feel like he’s won. His natural charisma is a talent. A lot of people can evaluate cattle, but leaving exhibitors with that feeling takes a special talent.”
“The show ring is unique as there is no defined environment. People from all over the country exhibit these cattle and that has to be considered,” Rathmann said as he shared insight into what separates the Simmental Progress Through Performance show cattle from his many other cattle judging experiences. “The advantage is that genotypic data has eliminated the error in mating decisions in advance. The strength in the data in the show ring is impressive, which makes it a whole lot of fun. Red flag cattle with regressive traits aren’t being created. Simmental breeders have a clear commitment toward performance, creating a demand to breed respectable and problem-free cattle.”