Ag professor Dan Hoge’s enthusiasm for the livestock industry and his vast knowledge of all three species – swine, beef and sheep – has led to the success of the livestock judging program at Black Hawk College East Campus, making BHC one of the most recognized teams in livestock judging.
“Livestock judging requires a lot more mental agility than most people realize,” Dan says. “Their job isn’t just to rank ’em first to fourth; they have to tell why they did – and the judge has to agree with them.”
For those members of the BHC Livestock Judging Team, there is no free time and little play during the competition season. Students work out for up to 30 hours per week and still are expected to keep up with academic demands as well.
“Students are here first for an education and second for judging,” he stressed. “If they get those out of order, they don’t judge.”
Once classes begin in August, the team works out every night, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
“We drive them hard because there is no other way to succeed – in livestock judging or life,” Dan says. The hours are long and family often takes a back seat, “but I love what I do. I love competing, and I love to teach.”
Dan’s philosophy is simple – Work hard, and you’ll reap the rewards. Slough off, and you get what you expect, defeat. “My definition of success is when preparation meets opportunity. You can’t expect to have great opportunities come to you. You have to be ready to out and find it.
“Students who have been through our program are much in demand by employers, because they have a strong work ethic,” he said. “But more important, they have learned to accept the victories, along with the setbacks in life.”
Dan’s passion for hogs started young. He learned from his father, legendary Duroc breeder Elmer Hoge, on their farm in Walnut, Ill.
Dan attended the University of Illinois in Champaign where he participated in the livestock judging team and earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science and master’s degree in swine nutrition.
After serving two years as the specialized livestock advisor for Henry County, Dan came to Black Hawk College in 1970. Having coached the Henry County livestock team, he had a good pool of recruits for his first BHC team. The first three years, the team only prepared for competition at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) Invitational.
During his 40-plus years at Black Hawk College, Dan has developed the animal science and livestock judging curriculum into one of the most active community college programs in the United States.
This year’s team will compete at the National Barrow Show in Minnesota, Ak-Sar-Ben Livestock Expo in Nebraska, the Stockman Invitational, Purdue University Block & Bridle and the Hoosier Beef Congress in Indiana, the American Royal Livestock Show in Missouri, the North American International Livestock Exposition in Kentucky, the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo in Colorado, the Iowa Beef Expo in Iowa, the San Antonio Stock Show and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo in Texas and the Sioux Empire Farm Show in South Dakota and as the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) contest in Missouri.
“Livestock judging has evolved over the years both in terms of scope and levels and numbers of contests,” said Dan. “Judging contests now are far more competitive.”
Livestock also has changed over the years. Industry standards have evolved since that first SIUC contest, but the caliber of judging students drawn to Black Hawk College shows little change.
“We may appear to win more now, but we work harder. Hard work is what it’s all about,” he says. Dan appreciates the support local livestock producers lend to the program through the various workouts they host.
“Our proximity to outstanding livestock – compared to what other schools have available – is exceptional,” Dan said. “Our students are the most highly sought-after livestock judges in the country by coaches at four-year colleges.”
The catalyst for being involved in all three species came from his wife’s family, the Broers of Walnut, Ill. “Exposure to all three species is essential, both personally and as a coach. I believe that you’re cheating the students is you don’t let them show in all three areas if they interested,” he says.
Dan has been very active in judging livestock shows throughout the United States, judging state or national shows of all the breeds of swine as well as many large junior barrow shows in Texas and Oklahoma. In 1979, he had the opportunity to take his skill international, lecturing and judging in Japan.
He also has served on numerous boards and received many honors, most recently being inducted into the National Barrow Show Hall of Fame.
“I’m driven to succeed and am an eternal optimist,” Dan says. “I just hope that after two years the students take from the program a positive attitude for themselves and are motivated to succeed.”