Key Points for Judging Sheep

  1. Evaluate animals first from the ground up and then from the rear forward.
  2. Rank the tgraits for their importance.
  3. Evaluate the most important traits first.
  4. Eliminate any easy placings.
  5. Place the class based on the volume of the important traits.

Ranking of Traits for Market Lambs

  1. Degree of muscling
  2. Degree of finish
  3. Balance (also deals with capacity or volume) and style
  4. Frame size
  5. Soundness and structure correctness.

Ranking of Traits for Breeding Ewes

  1. Balance (also deals with capacity or volume) and style
  2. Frame size
  3. Soundness and structural correctness
  4. Degree of muscling
  5. Degree of leanness
  6. Wool

Evaluating Muscling

Evaluating Degree of Muscling

Degree of muscling in sheep is best evaluated by considering:

  1. Thickness through the center of the leg.
  2. Width between the rear legs as the animal walks or stands.
  3. Width and length of the loin.
  4. Length of the hind saddle.
  5. Shape over the rack.

Evaluating Degree of Muscling - Center Leg and Base Width - Light, Average, Heavy


Evaluating Degree of Muscling - Width and length of loin

Evaluating Degree of Muscling Length of Hind Saddle


Evaluating Degree of Muscling Shape Over Rack


Evaluating Finish


Evaluating Degree of Finish

Degree of finish in sheep is influenced by:

  1. Degree of muscling
  2. Frame size.
  3. Stage of maturity.

Ideally, lambs should be lean with an average backfat thickness of 0.15 to 0.20 inch.

Lambs that are lean will be:

  1. Very trim over and behind the shouldre.
  2. Extremely clean and neat through underline.


Evaluating Degree of Finish - Fatty alert


Evaluating Degree of Finish Ideal Finish


Evaluating Degree of Finish - Ideal Finish


Evaluating Balance/Style


Evaluating Balance and Style

Balance in sheep deals with having equal portions of:

  1. Body width
  2. Body depth
  3. Body length (special emphasis placed here)

Sheep should be wide and deep at the rear and tight and trim through the front-end

  • Christmas tree shape with the largest volume of weight in the leg and loin.

Evaluating Balance and Style

Style in sheep deals with:

  1. Correctness of structure
  2. Straightness of design

Sheep with good style will have:

  • A straight top line.
  • A neat, smooth shoulder that blends smoothly into the neck and ribs.


Evaluating Balance and Style - Nasty Sheep Alert


Evaluating Balance and Style - Unbalanced alert


Evaluating Balance and Style Nice Balance


Evaluating Balance and Style - Good Style Points


Evaluating Balance and Style Good Style Points


Evaluating Balance and Style Good Style Points


Evaluating Frame Size


Evaluating Frame Size

Frame size is important so market lambs can grow to a market weight of 130 lb without excess fat.

Frame size is evaluated by giving consideration to:

  1. Length of body
    • Measured from the fore flank to the rear flank.
  2. Height
    • Measured from the top of the shoulder to the ground.


Evaluating Frame Size - Nice Frame Size


Evaluating Structure & Soundness


Evaluating Structure & Soundness

Evaluating soundness and structural correctness, pay close attention to:

  1. Feet and pasterns
  2. Hocks
  3. Knees
  4. Rumps
  5. Shoulders


Evaluating Soundness Feet and Pasterns Not Good & Cripple Alert


Evaluating Soundness Feet and Pasterns Nice Foot Pastern Good Toes


Evaluating Soundness Hocks Too Much Set & Correct Hocks


Evaluating Soundness Knees Need Improvement


Evaluating Soundness Knees Good Knees


Evaluating Soundness Rumps Need Improvement


Evaluating Soundness Rumps Just Right


Evaluating Soundness Shoulders Poor Shoulder Structure


Evaluating Soundness Shoulders - Good Shoulders

Sheep Final Judging Tips graphic

Final Tips for Judging Sheep

  • Remember the important Traits.
  • Know what "correct" looks like.
  • Look at lots of market lambs and ewes.
  • Practice your judging skills.

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