An Insiders Perspective

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Joe Epperly studies the exhibitors in the first class of the Junior Market Steer Show and pulls calves to be placed. The kicker: he’s not the judge. 

Epperly is the chosen ring manager of today’s steer show. His job is to coordinate between the three actual judges and the livestock coordinator for tallying scores. He also makes sure that the judges get a good look at all they exhibitors for a fair shake. 

“Usually when you pull calves, you’re only looking at the calf,” Epperly said. “But it’s kind of an emotional job because I have to look a kid right in the eye and pull them in.” 

Epperly also said it was interesting being on the inside of the judging decisions and the results especially with all the great cattle. He’s the first person to know the results before the judges even find out. 

Epperly has held this position for five years – two or three years since the three-man system was implemented at the National Western. 

“Each year varies along with quality of the cattle, but as far as the judges go, National Western always gets top quality judges,” Epperly said. “It’s always fun to work with them.” 

Epperly also has an extensive history in cattle and showing livestock. He grew up in Virginia showing Angus cattle and then started showing lambs. 

“It’s kind of special for me as a kid growing up in Virginia showing,” Epperly said. “National Western just blew my mind. It was the dream. I like to tell people that I’m living the dream when they ask me how I’m doing.”

When asked about future years at the National Western, Epperly said that if they’ll have him, he’ll definitely come back. He enjoys and looks forward to it every year. 

Epperly said, “When I’m here before everything starts, I do a little circle around the arena and just think about how blessed I am to be here and do this.” ​