“It’s all in the eye of the judge”

Through my love of showing and stockjudging success, I have now had several invites to judge shows. It is an honour to be asked to judge any show whether it is local, county or a national breed show.

Every show is different in size and number of entries, the classes are dependent on breeds as every breed has different characteristics to be judged on.

My latest invite was to Yeovil Show to judge commercial cattle. It is never an easy task trying to place numerous numbers of quality stock especially when there are several critical points to judge upon and the final decision between the top spots can be down to the width of the muzzle.

Here is a brief example of how I begin to judge a class of commercial cattle in order to decide my final placings and overall champion.Commercial cattle in the show ring

When faced with several commercial cattle that can be numerous shapes, sizes and colours it soon becomes a daunting task. Unlike a pedigree class, commercial cattle can be many crosses in order to produce an animal that would suitable for the beef industry.

Although most commercial cattle, especially steers will not be bred from I always look for flashiness and ring presence in a class. At the end of the day we are still at a show and to get there it takes huge amounts of time and effort.

First, I start with the head, I look for a small, ‘beefy’ head with a wide muzzle, the smaller the head the less waste which keeps the end procurement happier. Next the animal has to be light in the brisket again reducing the waste and then through to neat compact shoulders. The main criteria for commercial cattle is meat however along with this you need the animal to be of the right size, preferable around 550kg in order to produce steaks that will be suitable for today’s modern consumer. From the shoulder, I then look for meat through the chine, followed to the fat covering the ribs. Some animals are too fleshed and some are too lean which again would not be suitable for the modern consumer. From the ribs we then feel the loin, a prime cut for steaks. This must be long, deep with width across the back. After the loin we move to the hind quarters. Different breeds mean different shapes, a native sire such as an Angus wouldn’t have as much muscular development when compared to the extreme shape of a British Blue. I look for a round, well-shaped rear that isn’t too ‘slopey’ or too narrow. Finally, mobility is still a key point of my judging criteria, although not necessarily being bred from I feel ring presence is highly important across any class of cattle, sheep, pigs or even horses.

As well as judging the animal on characteristics, meat and flesh it is important to consider the overall presentation. For commercial cattle the head, belly and tail should be clipped out. This therefore means there is less hair on the animal making parts of the animal look smaller with less waste. I like to see the hair brushed up, making the carcass look wider and fuller. There are numerous products on the market that can be sourced to make your animal show ready.

Millie Hendy
Calf Specialist

You can follow Millie on Twitter @hendycalf1 or find out how to contact the Wynnstay Calf Team here.

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