Sheep Judging and Evaluation

The art of judging is done by carefully observing an animal and determine what it should rate against a standard of ideals. All livestock producers in some fashion use judging to improve their herd when setting up a breeding program and selecting replacements. Evaluation is used to determine carcass quality and characteristics. A good producer needs to know what they are looking for and how to judge in it in order to improve their herd or flock.

A good judge observes an animal with an already set mental picture as to what the animal should look like depending on class and breed. This information should already be known before the judge steps in the ring and observes live animals. A good judge needs to have accuracy and good timing during the observation process. Other characteristics of a good judge are a competitive nature, ability to freely speak opinions and support them, and confidence. A good judge needs to know what they are talking about and be able to back up their comments with accuracy.

Before actually observing an animal the judge needs to study and be able to identify parts of the animal. A way this can be enforced is by observing pictures and reading breed qualifications and standards. The next step would be then to practice and observe animals from a distance and hands on to determine where it would place among the standards. Next, is actually practice judging a class and comparing live animals against other live animals. A judge needs to stand his ground when judging and not be persuaded.

When it comes to actually judging: the parts of the sheep, the wholesale cuts, and what part off the body they come from need to be known and understood. High priced cuts should be given the most consideration when judging and evaluating an animal. The difference when judging sheep compared to cattle is the wool. Sheep need to be judged at a distance first then they need to be handled to verify what was observed. A judge needs to know what parts they are handling and what should be expected for that part of the animal.

There main judging class when judging sheep and each have a set of ideals to follow. The two classes are market lamb judging and judging breeding sheep. Within the market lamb judging the criteria is as follows: type, muscling, finish, balance, and carcass merit.

Market Lamb Judging
  -Weight of 90-110 pounds
  -Heavily muscled
  -Well balanced with good body length (longest part last rib to hind-saddle)
  -Thickness through the leg
  -Heavy muscled lambs highest rating
  -Natural thickness over the top
  -Legs wide apart
  -Fat enough (not too fat)  have high carcass grade
  -Fat covering of rib eye muscle .15-.25 inch of back fat
  -Prominence of bones is a sign of poor finish
  -Too much finish has a supple touch
  -Overall appearance uniform
  -Definition-straightness of lines

 Carcass Merit
  -Leg and loin give 70 percent of value
  -Select for prime leg and loin length

Judging is and will continue to be an art, it takes some practice to become a good judge and some classes may be misplaced at first, but that is when the learning begins. When a judge steps into a ring he needs to know about the specie, breed of animal, and type of class. He needs to have confidence and the ability to give reasons. He also needs to know a few simple tactics: good sheep beat bad sheep, big sheep beat little sheep, and most importantly he needs to keep it simple. Good Luck!!