SDSU's wool judging team wins Black Hills Stock Show contest

South Dakota State University Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. — The South Dakota State University Wool Judging Team won high overall team at the first Black Hills Stock Show Collegiate Wool Judging Contest on Feb. 5. The team also placed first in placings and reasons, second in grading and third in the value-based divisions.

The team consisted of Emily Nold, animal science and agricultural leadership student from Brookings, Samantha Thyen, animal science student from Waverly, S.D., Lindsey VanderWal, agricultural education student from Bruce, S.D., Isaac Berg, animal science student from Pipestone, Minn., and Hadley Stiefvater, animal science and agricultural leadership student from Salem, S.D.

Notable individual highlights from the BHSS contest included:


  • High individual overall, high individual in grading, second high individual in placings, second high individual in reasons.


  • Fourth high individual overall, fifth high individual in placings.


  • High individual in placings, third high individual in reasons.


  • Fifth high individual in grading.

Prior to the BHSS contest, the team competed at the 7220 Collegiate Wool Judging Contest hosted by the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., on Jan. 14-15. The team placed third in the value-based division, tied for fourth in reasons and placed ninth overall. VanderWal received fourth high individual in the value-based division.

The team was coached by Jennifer Hurlbert, 2020 Wool Judging Team member, and Rosie Nold, animal science professor, with assistance from SDSU wool judging alumnae Brooke Hendrickx and Morgan Busack.

“I am extremely proud of our students’ performance in the wool judging contests,” said Rosie Nold. “Winning our ‘home state’ contest (BHSS) was a tremendous honor and indicative of the time and effort these students put into preparing.”

A wool judging contest consists of six placing classes of breed and commercial fleeces, three sets of reasons and a grading rail of 15 fleeces. Fleeces are graded for spinning count, staple length, yield of clean wool, purity and character. Breed classes may include Merino, Rambouillet, Targhee, Columbia or Corriedale classes and are judged on genetic qualities of quantity and quality of wool produced. Commercial classes are ranked based on the overall value of the fleece based on its weight, length and cleanliness.

In addition to competing, the team had the opportunity to tour the University of Wyoming Sheep Research and Extension facilities during their travels. They also visited Center of the Nation Wool in Belle Fourche, S.D., with a guided tour from CEO Larry Prager.

“Wool judging has been an unforgettable experience that has helped me develop skills in critical thinking and helped boost my confidence in professionally explaining to people how I evaluated products with differing compositions,” said Emily Nold.

The SDSU Wool Judging Team placed first overall at the Black Hills Stock Show contest and ninth overall at the 7220 contest. Pictured (left to right): Lindsey VanderWal, Samantha Thyen, Hadley Stiefvater, Emily Nold and Isaac Berg.