Judging meat has not only taken Michael Semler around the country, he's now adding international titles to his resume.
He and his Colorado State University meat judging teammates just returned from Australia, where they competed in the 28th annual Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) competition. In addition to contributing to the team championship, Semler won titles in individual lamb judging, beef judging, and overall placings, and he took second in beef pricings and overall questions and reasons.
The Bayfield High School graduate is now a senior at CSU, finishing his final semester in a double degree in animal science and agriculture business. After that, he plans to start graduate work in bovine reproduction, possibly at Kansas State or the University of Nebraska.
In the meantime, he'll be compete in his final year on the CSU meat judging team, with four competitions this fall in Pennsylvania and Nebraska.
In addition to two days of competition in Australia, the team attended a three-day conference on meat production and traveled the country, touring industry operations and visiting sites.
Sheep production in Australia dwarfs the market in the U.S., Semler explained. One plant they visited in Australia can process up to 10,000 sheep per day. Most of the lamb in Australia is grass fed, he said, noting another difference between the U.S. and Australian markets. They also got to visit a plant that slaughters animal using halal standards, which means observant Muslims can eat the meat.
Other visits included Fletcher's lamb packing facility, Dubbo Livestock Markets, feedlots and seedstock operations, Meat and Livestock Australia headquarters, King's Beach, and the Australia Zoo.
Being on a meat judging team is comparable to the life of a student athlete, Semler explained. He and other team members work from 5 to 8 a.m. four mornings a week, then devote Friday night and most of the day Saturday to team practice and activities.
"I like the competitive aspect of it," he said of meat judging. Because the beef and lamb industries are a business, "you can we where we're going to make money." He started his livestock judging career in La Plata County 4-H under Brad Fassett and Beth LaShell, then went on to Northeastern Colorado Junior College in Sterling, where he was on the livestock judging team. He is the son of Melody and Wayne Semler of Bayfield.
Other members of the CSU team are Jazmine Brown of Brush, Mikaila Andersen of Mead, Brett Meisinger of Pagosa Springs, Chloe Carlson of San Antonio, Mac Cassas of Reno, Nev., Savannah Millburn of Princeton, Missouri, Landon Verbeek of Fort Lupton, and Wesley Woolery of Hat Creek Hat Creek, Calif. The team is coached by Blake Foraker, a graduate student in meat science, and supervised by Dale Woerner, a faculty member in the Department of Animal Sciences.
In addition to Semler's titles, the team also received champion honors in pork judging, lamb judging, beef judging, overall placings, overall questions and reasons, and runner up honors in eating quality evaluation.