Guidelines for Showing
Portland Sheep

Introduction

 

Showing is the social side of being a shepherd, have fun and chat with your colleagues outside the ring before and after the showing, but in the ring, it is fight to the end ☺ You are there to enjoy and show your sheep to the outside world, be proud, and go home happy whatever the result, even though that judge knows nothing!

 

And the Portland Sheep help here, they are shown in their natural state, no fussing or clipping just remove any vegetation or dirt, maybe a bit of baby oil on the horns and in you go.

 

And bear in mind that different judges look at different aspects; for example, most judges look at commerciality, but for some that means size. As you see in the Portland’s attributes it is a sheep which provides high quality, lower fat meat on smaller joints, ideal for today’s healthy eating society; so, when competing in a mixed class sometimes the big sheep win, but your friend is not and never will be that animal, it is commercial in a variety of ways, it just depends on that judges focus on that day. Always keep your chin up and smile whatever happens.

New to showing? Your First year

For those new to showing, spend time at other shows to find out what goes on, and start at a local show. Browse as many recent livestock show schedules as possible, as it will provide an insight into different show rules.

Read the Portland Breed Standard which you will find under ‘The Sheep’ tab on this site. Observe the sheep at the shows, do they fit the standard as well as yours? if you see something that does not look right to your eye, then check that with your own sheep when you get home.

Learn ‘ringcraft’

When a judge is considering an animal, you will be asked to walk it out and back – this is the point when you will have the judge’s undivided attention. When you’re turning around to come back, always turn so that you are on the outside of the animal, allowing the judge to see it clearly. Watch the other competitors. Are they doing a good job? Will you do it better?

 

Become the Shepherd

Watch the shepherd who catches your eye? Are they smartly dressed, do they look calm and confident even when the sheep is behaving not as they wish? What is it that makes you look at them and their sheep, what would you improve? Remember if the shepherd and sheep team catch your eye, it is likely to have been spotted by the judge.

 

Talk

The Portland shepherds are a friendly bunch, nothing is nicer than talking about Sheep;  so go along have a chat with them, they will be free with their advice, you can choose which bits you take on board!

 

Christmas

So that’s your Christmas present list shorted for this year:

  • Nice Sheep halter

  • A show persons white coat

  • A Portland tie

  • A nice shirt

  • And a Portland sweat shirt to keep you clean until you enter the ring. 

 

 

The Autumn / Winter before your Show season.

 

Prepare yourself

You have drawn up your Christmas list but looking the part is important, so remember

 

  • A clean shirt and a tie always look good,

  • A clean white coat, buttoned up correctly

  • On a wet day wear a waterproof under your coat 

  • Footwear is very important too – flipflops and trainers are a definite ‘no-no’, wellies are just about acceptable

  • In very wet conditions but best of all are clean, sturdy boots or shoes

  • Many young handlers wear a Portland cap too; this looks good but is not vital

  • Try and make sure your animal has a clean halter.

Select your partner

  • Select potential sheep from within your flock for the following Show Season in order to give an adequate period of time to attain good body condition. 

  • Animals to be registered and tagged in accordance with current regulations. 

  • Animals to be in accordance with breed standard - with good conformation and to be well grown for age. 

  • Animals must not have docked tails.

  • Animals to be free from disease. 

  • Rams to be entire and ewes to exhibit good udders.

  • Ewe class entries to have lambed in year of show.

  • Teeth to be level with pad. 

  • Animals should have symmetrical horn patterns avoiding close proximity to head.

  • Select animals that “stand out” from the rest of the flock and appeal to the eye.

  • Straight back; stands four-square; alert expression (“star” quality). 

 

Preparation 

  • Sheep to be halter trained, stand and move well.

  • Get sheep to walk in a straight line to show efficient gait and correct alignment of limbs. The handler needs to walk alongside the left shoulder of sheep – not in front or behind of the movement.

  • When comparisons are being made between sheep in a line-up, the animal must present itself favourably by standing square – pairs of feet together; back legs slightly back, which allows the spine to appear straight and the head slightly raised. 

  • Practise will get you nearer perfection

 

Practise will get you nearer perfection.

  • Feet to be trimmed. See the husbandry notes on this site; but well-trimmed feet will help the gait of your animal.

  • Choose your shows, have a look at The Portland Sheep Breeders Newsletter to help you decide

  • Ensure entries reach Show Secretary on time. 

  • Be aware of current movement and transport regulations.

 

 

On the day

Preparation

Equipment - a hard brush to clean the horns (washing-up brush is small and hard), towel, baby oil to apply to the horns and feet, buckets for water and feed, halters, hay, feed and show animals! Do not forget licences, show tickets, passes and numbers if they have been sent. Chairs and food for yourself. 

 

At the show  

try to arrive in good time at least one hour.  Find your pens and unload your sheep and then the equipment.  Next, go and see the Secretary for numbers and hand in your licences.  Prepare your sheep by removing debris of hay and straw, clean the horns and oil and be ready for your class when the Steward calls you.  Keep your eye on the judge - do not gossip but keep calm.  If you need help do not be afraid to ask, judge, steward or any other competitor.  They are always willing to help.

Make sure you have a clean trailer with fresh bedding

 

  • Have you prepared your show person’s outfit?

  • Have you your movement paper work completed

  • Clean your animals fleece to be free from dung and vegetable matter -animals to be shown in natural state’ -no previous shampooing with soaps or detergents which degrease and result in a soft open white fleece -no trimming, shaping or combing of fleece.

  • It may be helpful to ‘wipe’ clean the fleece with a dampened sponge/cloth using a very small quantity of “Stergene” in lukewarm water prior to showing. 

  • Horns and hooves may be lightly oiled - suggest ‘baby oil’ in preference to heavy horse oils, which are tacky and may discolour. 

 

 

Showing 

  • Handler to wear clean white coat and exhibitor’s number. 

  • Follow judge’s and steward’s instructions and keep sheep under control at all times, stand in front of sheep when judge at rear of line-up and, move to one side when judge views from the front. Always keep sheep between the judge and yourself when instructed to move animals in a circle.

  • Encourage sheep to show itself to best advantage -discourage grazing and lying down.

  • Do not speak to the judge unless asked and do not converse with other exhibitors. But the handler is expected to have knowledge of the animal (when born, when lambed etc) and may be asked

  • You will need to demonstrate ability to control sheep whilst standing in line. That winter practise will pay dividends 

  • Understand tips such as placing the hand under the hin, especially when being examined by the judge. It is important to pay attention to the judge and the animal.

  • It may be helpful to have a few sheep nuts in pocket of overall - do not reward in front of judge. 

  • Know the date of birth of your sheep and lambing dates where appropriate.

Lets first of all get this into context, you are in the ring to enjoy your day and show off our breed. There will be one winner so the judge will be wrong in the majority of views!

 

The class is designed to rank each shep in which the judge, with their knowledge and experience, think the sheep reaches the breed standard the closest. It is the judges opinion only, it does not mean the other sheep in the group have anything wrong with them, just on the day in the judges eye which reflects the best qualites of the breed. 

When the judge is looking at your Portland they will have three main considerations in their mind.

 

Firstly, to what degree does the animal reflect the breed standard, is it a good example and promotes the breed well.

 

Secondlly, does the sheep reflect the commerciality of the breed; trhis does not mean size will win out, but does it have a good cover of meat, is the fleece of good quality. 

 

Finally is the animal physically sound, does it carry any defects, does it walk well. Connected to this, is the animal in good health and will pass on good qualities to off spring.

 

So as the judge examines your entry what are they looking at?

  • By observation and asking the animals to walk around the eye of the judge will be drawn to an animal which presents itself well and represents the Breed Standard.

  • By observation and feel, does it have a good carcass for its frame? The judge will often place ther hands on the animals rump and feel along its back.

  • The fleece will be parted in a couple of places to assess its quality.

  • The mouth of the animal will be examined to ensure its teeth are correct for its age and it can maintain health and fitness

  • Are the teats of the ewes and reproductive organs of the tups in good order and equel?

  • Does the sheep walk well? Are its legs in good order? Is it correct on its Pasterns?​

Showing

The purpose of showmanship is to present an animal in a manner that will develop the most favourable impression on the judge.  Showing sheep properly is an extremely rewarding experience.  Sheep showing not only generates enthusiasm and competition within the show-ring but it will also help to promote the breed.  Success in the show-ring begins at home.  It takes time to halter train your animal.  

Halter training - start as early as possible - young animals do not usually forget they have had halters on and are easier to then train when older.  Use halters that are not frayed, so that the rope can release easily.  It will also help when walking so that each time a step is taken forward the pressure is released.  A show animal should look proud and walk around with its head held high, it should walk alongside its leader and be able to stand still.  This is all practice, practice and more practice.  The judge will then be able to perform a close inspection.  Practice often with your animals in several short period rather than a few long, drawn out practice sessions.  When leading, hold the halter strap in your right hand, six to twelve inches away from the sheep's head.  It will help keep the sheep calm and will give enough distance between you and the animal so that the judge can access your sheep.  

Equipment - a hard brush to clean the horns (washing-up brush is small and hard), towel, baby oil to apply to the horns and feet, buckets for water and feed, halters, white coats, shirt and tie, paperwork, hay, feed and show animals.  Do not forget licences, show tickets, passes and numbers if they have been sent.  Chairs and food for yourself. 

Feet - try to trim feet a few weeks before the season to allow the hooves to become hard.  It also helps an animal to walk upright with short hooves. 

At the show - try to arrive in good time at least one hour.  Find your pens and unload your sheep and then the equipment.  Next, go and see the Secretary for numbers and hand in your licences.  Prepare your sheep by removing debris of hay and straw, clean the horns and oil and be ready for your class when the Steward calls you.  Keep your eye on the judge - do not gossip but keep calm.  If you need help do not be afraid to ask, judge, steward or any other competitor.  They are always willing to help. 

Enjoy yourself and good luck. 

 

Here is some further guidance from an article on Shetland sheep.

 

Rear leg placement

In last month’s edition of the Shetland Breed, we announced that this month’s topic of discussion will be rear legs. I have focused this article specifically on correct leg placement as well as ‘cow hocks’ and ‘bow-legs’. Next months edition will continue with this topic and focus on some of the other problems that can be encountered with rear legs including ‘sickle-hocks’ and incorrect pasterns.

 

Correct Rear Leg Placement

Picture 1 below shows a sheep with correct rear leg placement. Both legs are straight and run parallel to each other. The feet should be pointing forward, although this isn’t shown on the picture. It is essential that sheep have good rear legs to enable successful mating and general locomotion to enable a sheep to thrive. 

When a sheep walks it should move it’s legs in turn in a straight motion. The animal should not swing its legs or limp when it walks and there should be no stiffness in the joints. The legs should be well set apart when the animal is standing and walking.

Correct Leg Position

The legs are both straight and are parallel to each other. All feet point forwards.

Cow-hocks

Picture 2 shows a sheep with cow-hocks. This is best described as an inward bend in the leg at the hock joint. The problem area is identified by the red lines on picture 2. When this is compared to picture 1 above, the bend at the hock can be clearly seen. The inward bend at the hock often results in the hooves pointing outwards. Cow hocks can easily be seen as the animal moves due to the unusual gait. 

 

This is a conformational fault and is problematic as incorrect leg placement can result in the hooves not wearing properly and the problem may cause pain to the animal as a result of the abnormal pressure on the hock and pastern joints (the pastern is essentially the ankle joint just above the hoof). 

 

There has been anecdotal evidence to suggest that the condition of an animal has a bearing on the placement of the rear legs, so sheep in poorer condition can appear more cow-hocked. 

 

Historically this has been a reasonably common problem within our breed, so it is worth checking your animals to ensure you can adjust your breeding programme to avoid this issue.

'Cow Hocked'

The legs are naturally inward, turning at the hock.

As a result of the bend at the hock the sheep's feet point outwards, rather than forward.

Bow-Legged

This sheep has legs that bend outwards. It can be particularly seen at the bottom of the legs.

As a result the hooves have grown unevenly and, despite being otherwise healthy, this commercial lamb as not reached a commercial weight.

Bow Legs

Within our breed bow-legs are not a problem I have ever encountered, however; it is useful to raise this fault so that it can be identified if it is ever seen within the breed. 

 

This fault is basically the opposite of cow-hocks where the legs bend outwards, rather than inwards. The resulting problems are the same as cow-hocks with the main concern being the potential discomfort the animal is in as a result of the poor conformation. Looking closely at picture 3 you may be able to see that the hooves are not growing correctly. 

 

Animals with this problem should not be used for breeding. This particular animal is a commercial lamb that will ultimately be sold for meat. The fault was not apparent at birth, but has become noticeable as the animal has grown. As the animal moves it’s gait is not normal. This picture has been edited to emphasise the fault more.

My Top Tips

When checking you sheep’s rear legs the best thing to do is observe your sheep in the field when they are moving naturally. If you are trying to assess your sheep in a small space or while handling them then they may cower down and not hold their legs in their normal position. By assessing them in the field it allows you to see the natural leg position. 

 

If you notice that your sheep is not walking correctly, check it’s feet. If it’s hooves are slightly overgrown it may result in poor movement. 

 

Remember, we are interested to hear your comments and questions. Answers to any questions raised will be featured in the next edition of the newsletter. Please contact wadley.shetlands@gmail.com 

Rear leg placement

So, in the last edition of the Shetland Breed, I committed to doing an article on sickle-hocks and pasterns. I have tried to find pictures of actual sheep from our commercial flock, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find any examples so I have resorted to drawings this time! I’d much prefer to show a photograph of a sheep with the fault that I’m trying to describe as I feel a picture puts the fault into perspective, but hopefully the drawings will be ok this time. Many thanks to Amy for drawing the pictures for me... drawing is certainly not a skill that I possess! 

 

Correct Rear Leg Placement

 

Picture 1 below shows a sheep when viewed from the side with correct leg placement. 

Pasterns

The ‘Pastern’ is the bone just above the hoof. The terms weak pasterns, dropped pasterns or down on the pasterns are all terms that are used to indicate that the pastern is not positioned at the correct angle. This will put unnatural pressure on the joints above and below the pastern. Sheep can have poor pasterns on both the front or rear legs and they may only have weakness on one of their pasterns, so it is important to check all of your sheep’s pasterns.

 

In the picture below line ‘A’ shows a pastern at approximately 45 degrees, this slope is too excessive. In extreme cases the pastern can be completely dropped to the floor, which is likely to cause pain for the affected animal. Line ‘B’ shows a correct pastern, it is important to remember that the sheep’s foot does need to move independently, so there may be a slight slope at the pastern joint, but this should not be excessive.

Sickle hocks

‘Sickle hocks’ is the name of a fault where the joints are not set at the correct angle. The name comes from the ‘sickle’ shaped appearance of the rear leg bones, as shown by the curved line. Sickle hocks are a fault of the rear legs only. The legs are effectively tucked under the sheep’s body. When looking at your sheep it is important to try to assess how they stand while they are out in the field. If you try to hold your sheep or assess them in a confined space then they may not stand in their natural position.

'Sickle Hocked'

The legs are naturally tucked under the sheep rather than being perpendicular to the ground

'Post Legged'

The leg joint is too straight, giving a rigid appearance.

Post Legged 

Post legs are another fault of the leg joints. Animals displaying this condition appear to suffer from very straight joints. The picture below illustrates minimal bend at the hock. This is not a problem I have ever noticed in Shetland sheep, but it is still one that breeders should be aware of, so it can be avoided.

Top Tips

If you notice a problem with the way your sheep is standing, make sure its feet are not overgrown. This can lead to a sheep standing in an unnatural position in order to balance itself. 

 

Remember, we are interested to hear your comments and questions. Answers to any questions raised will be featured in the next edition of the newsletter. Please contact wadley.shetlands@gmail.com 

So try and prepare your prize and joy for this day. You will know in your mind which is your prefered animal, check them against breed standard ( see the tab in ‘the Sheep’ section of this web pages); Portlands are shown in the natuaral state, but you can clean off any dirt or muck. 

 

And try and get your sheep use to a halter. This enables the judge to see your entrie at its greatest advantage, and a sheep which is relaxed will look bright in the show.

 

Give the feet a light trim, do not go to heavy on them but make sure the sheep walks nicely and is not thrown off by long or uneven hoofs.

 

•    Are the teats of the ewes and reproductive organs of the tups in good order and equel?

 

So try and prepare your prize and joy for this day. You will know in your mind which is your prefered animal, check them against breed standard ( see the tab in ‘the Sheep’ section of this web pages); Portlands are shown in the natuaral state, but you can clean off any dirt or muck. 

 

And try and get your sheep use to a halter. This enables the judge to see your entrie at its greatest advantage, and a sheep which is relaxed will look bright in the show.

Give the feet a light trim, do not go to heavy on them but make sure the sheep walks nicely and is not thrown off by long or uneven hoofs.

 

To members who have never previously entered their Portlands in sheep show classes - please be encouraged by the helpful hints above - the show circuit includes the friendliest group of people you will meet - they will share advice - loan you bits of kit - and even show your sheep for you when you have got just one pair of hands - we look forward to seeing you in the show ring. 

Still unsure?

Find a mentor! Contact your local regional representative, to find someone nearby to help.

 

Most of all know your friend and enjoy the day with them!

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