Ashley & Jessie Judge
“Work harder, push further, and care more than everyone else and God will do the rest.”
When the Reid family asked us to put together an article telling our story, we couldn’t feel more honored. To say that we have been attached at the hip since Jessie was born would be an understatement. We have been best friends since birth. Throughout life, we have constantly done things together and relied on one another through it all.
Our story and passion for the beef industry began in California. Our parents were working for a family by the name of Andrews in Dos Palos, California. At the time, they were very heavily involved in Angus and Red Angus cattle, and our parents were managing their show barn, cow herd and hay farm. By the time we were both a year old, we had been to every major stock show in the country, instilling a love for show cattle from the start. This passion for show cattle was countered with early experiences with performance based Angus cattle, acquired when our dad took a job at Vintage Angus Ranch when we were around 5 and 2, right before our younger brother Wyatt was born. Our dad was managing the Vintage cow herd, in what was at the time, a very tiny town in the foothills of California. It is hard to fathom but the town of La Grange had a biker bar and gas station and that was about it. The small town feel provided us some of the best learning experiences. Our parents never shorted us of an opportunity to drive the feed truck, help move cows or jump in to get some hands on experience with calving cows and processing groups of calves.
It was when our dad took a teaching position at Cal Poly that our family moved to San Luis Obispo and showing cattle really became a focal point in our lives. We joke that our parents most likely completely regret buying Ashley a Shorthorn for her first show heifer. After being heavily involved in Angus cattle for many years, we don’t think our parents could have ever guessed that a Shorthorn female would lead to A LOT more Shorthorns over the years. Our first shorthorn heifer was named Strawberry, and she only cost $600. Strawberry was joined by an Angus named Lucy and a Charolais named Nikki. At the time, you couldn’t show in California until the age of nine, and even though Jessie couldn’t show, she worked in the barn just as hard. Those three years waiting and watching Ashley show when she couldn’t were definitely some of the hardest for Jessie, but it just helped further develop her love for the work behind the scenes and her competitive drive to get in the ring. For us, we had to learn to work hard early, as our facilities didn’t always make being competitive at a high level easy. Our very first “show barn” was just a lean to on the side of a hay barn. We felt pretty special when we moved and upgraded to an old dairy milking barn. The only concrete on the whole place was in the working facility lead up so we turned that into an outdoor wash rack, and the water pressure was so bad that we had to hook up a power washer just to get cattle rinsed. Even still, this was where our success in the ring really took off.
In 2004, we were lucky enough to win the California State Fair for the first time with a Shorthorn female by the name of Darla. We bought Darla from Dave Dillabo for next to nothing because she was part blind in her left eye and nobody else wanted to take a chance on trying to get her broke. At that time, we didn’t have anyone working for us, it was just our family. Between us, Wyatt and our parents we still managed to get everything ready, which looking back is something we are so thankful for. Growing up, we were handed a can of glue, a comb and a set of clippers and told “Get after it. You can’t learn just watching everybody else”. Sure, we made a lot of mistakes, put plenty of gouges in leg hair and sprayed entirely too much glue at times, but we learned. We learned that we were just as capable as the next person and could fit and get one ready just like “all the boys”.
Over the next couple of years, our family continued to build in success and numbers, which included Supreme AND Reserve Supreme females at the California State fair in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011, Reserve Supreme Female in 2008, and Supreme Female in 2014, just to name some of the more major successes. We had so many special and amazing heifers over the years, with a few steers sprinkled in, but there were a few that were especially special. In 2006 Ashley won with a female we called Erica, purchased from Silveira Bros. and the one who brought Craig and JJ Reinhardt into our lives. The livestock industry is incredible at placing pivotal people in your life, and to this day the Reinhardts treat us like their own kids and they are nothing short of family. In 2009, Jessie won with what would be the most influential Angus female we ever had, Chica. She is still producing to this day at 13 years old. 2010 was the year of Gus. You can talk to many who still remember the red neck roan female from WHR that Ashley showed that year. She ranks as one of the best Shorthorn females we ever had the chance to walk into the ring. Last but not least, 2011 brought about Kim, another special Shorthorn that we owned with Craig and Stephanie Steck. She went on to produce numerous champions and influence a lot of the genetics the Steck family still has.
No doubt the successes shared were true blessings, but it was the memories, lessons learned in the barn and the people we met that truly made this industry our forever passion and home. From the time Ashley was a freshman in high school, Jessie was in 6th grade, and Wyatt was just getting started, we took managing the show barn into our own hands. As hard as it may have been, our parents instilled in us a work ethic that cultivated a strong sense of pride in what we did and gave us the confidence to believe in our eyes and ability. Sure, our mom and dad would stop in every once in awhile to check and make sure things were getting fed right and help with any problems, but the show cattle were our responsibility to care for and learn how to get ready. If they were going to get fed, rinsed, worked on, whatever it may be, we were going to have to be the ones to do it. We can still remember the year we took over 20 head to state fair, including three cow calf pairs and two bulls. Looking back, we can’t even believe the insanity that we had going through our heads thinking that was a good idea, but that was the beauty of it. Our parents were willing to do anything to make our dreams and desires come true, as long as we were putting the time and effort in to follow through and make it go.
Our parents let us fail often so we could learn. We still remember the first time they let us shave heads and tails on heifers and we didn’t check the blades before starting. Halfway through shaving a red heifers head and after having already done her tail, we quickly realized that we were shearing with blocking blades… our fitting and clipping ability has come a long way since then! Through these experiences, we quickly learned that you don’t have to have the most and the fanciest to make it work. The most we ever spent on a heifer was $7,500. Granted times were different then than they are now, but the reality was we had to learn to be successful without an abundance of money or the nicest barn in the world. We were told from the very beginning that in order to be successful we had to out-work, out-feed and out-show others. We took pride in taking care of our cattle day in and day out, even if that meant not going to the lake with friends. Showmanship was always at the top of our priority list, and our competitiveness between each other only fueled our desire to do better. Our parents encouraged us, but their expectations were always set high. The goals were always changing, the bar was always being set higher.
Despite all the success we gained in California, we never managed to win it big on a national scale. The best we ever did at a major national show was winning a division growing up. Looking back, we so greatly wish we could have brought home a few more banners at that level, but at the same time, it really made us into the people we are now. To this day, we feel this is a huge driving force behind our continued passion and drive to do better and be better.
As we got older, and our time in the show ring started to wane, we invested our time in developing our personal skills that would allow us to give back to the industry in our future careers. One of those avenues was livestock judging, which all started with the help of our mom, Becky. At the time when Ashley entered high school, our mom was teaching at another high school. Knowing how competitive the we were and our desire to potentially judge in college, our mom quit her job, choosing to run cows full time and fill in as our judging coach. While we had two amazing high school Ag teachers, who helped us achieve so much in the way of public speaking and leadership roles, our Ag teachers didn’t have the livestock background our mom did. She taught us collegiate reasons format from the beginning and accuracy was always the priority, long past fancy terms and flamboyant presentation. There was no one more critical of us than her. To some it may seem harsh, but at the end of the day, it made us who we are today. It gave us the competitive edge and mental toughness needed to compete on the college level.
Our time in Junior College brought us some amazing teachers, the likes of Clay Elliot, Marcus Arnold and Taylor Frank. We both quickly found that you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and all of these gentlemen gave us the stepping stones to go on and achieve even more success in senior college at Oklahoma State University. Oklahoma State and Dr. Blake Bloomberg were always the end point for both the girls. Ashley was a member of the 2014 Reserve National Champion team in Louisville, being named High Individual and High Point in Reasons. Shortly thereafter, Blake asked Ashley to stay on and help coach, and to help coach the team Jessie would be on. In 2017, Jessie, alongside her team members, were named the National Champion team; the first win for both Blake and Ashley. On the same day, November 13th, Jessie was named High Individual and High Point in reasons, making us the first siblings in history to both win high individual at NAILE. A lifetime of hard work, dedication and effort managed to pay off in one moment. To share a piece of livestock judging history with each other is something we cherish and it frames the epitome of our relationship with each other. It encompasses exactly who we are and just how close we are to one another. On both winning days, two of the most important influences in our life were there; our mom and Blake. The woman who started us on the livestock judging path and the mentor who believed in our talent and ability more than anyone else.
Today, Jessie works as a marketing brand coordinator for BioZyme Incorporated, the makers of Sure Champ and VitaFerm, and large supporters of youth livestock events and opportunities, while spending as much time working at Tree Lane Farms in Illinois as possible. Ashley has built her own free-lance marketing business, 805 Media Management, while also helping to manage Baty Livestock, a Simmental and Angus based operation out of Colorado. While we currently live over 960 miles away from one another and only seem to meet up at livestock shows, nothing has changed our relationship. We support each other, cheer each other on and push each other more now than ever. We still set goals together and set the bar high. We still both enjoy spending all our time in the barn working on cattle, talking about breeding decisions and management choices. Getting the opportunity to judge shows together is something that we never take for granted. Standing in a ring as siblings and sisters, getting to sort through stock in the industry we love the most is a dream come true for us. Getting to this point was not something that happened over night for the us though. It is an accumulation of years upon years of hard work, struggle, defeat, persistence, heart break, success and failure. The list of people we need to thank is insurmountable, but please know that if you have ever played a part in our lives, cheered us on and been there through good and bad, we appreciate you, more than you know!
We hope that our story, experiences and upbringing can inspire other young people in similar situations to have big aspirations and work hard to achieve your dreams. While we have different careers and different ways of operating, we both have big ambitions to help guide young people, and young women particularly, to achieve the highest level of growth and achievement. Even though we haven’t been on this earth that long, here is a couple of things we’ve learned and hope will be helpful to some!
1. Never stop learning. Be open to listening to anyone and everyone. Go and work for other people, as it will teach you more than you know. It will give you appreciation for the way you grew up, and it will teach you tips and tricks that will make you better.
2. Don’t put a limit on yourself. Don’t let anyone else put a limit on you. There will be plenty of people who attempt to tear you down and tell you it can’t be done. Don’t listen to them. Choose the people who believe in you. The ones who don’t accept mediocrity and expect excellence.
3. Be yourself, unapologetically. Never apologize for being competitive and driven and going after what you want.
4. Learn to be okay with failing. It makes you stronger and tougher for the real world. Failing teaches you more than success ever will, and makes achieving success that much sweeter when it does happen.