quick guide toBeef Cattle Judging
Where to start
Form and function
What to look for
How judging works
Young Judging speech
Where to start
There are about 100 different breeds of cattle in Australia, but only a small portion of these will be entered in the show. The most common breeds are red/black Angus, poll/horned Hereford, Shorthorn, Murray Grey, Speckle Park, Simmental, Limousin, Charolais, Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster.
It is important to learn about the different breeds of livestock as their characteristics can vary significantly between breeds. For example, European breeds like Charolais and Limousin generally grow faster and have more muscle than British breeds, which are earlier maturing and able to gain weight on less feed.
Beef producers generally select their breeds on what is best suited to the climate or environment so it is likely certain breeds will dominate shows depending on their location. For example, in the far north of Australia where the weather is hot and tropical, breeds such as Brahman or Santa Gertrudis perform well, whereas Angus and Hereford are popular in the more temperate southern regions.
Breeds will have differences in their frame size, average weight, production purpose, whether they are an early or late maturing breed and what market they will be sold to.
TOP TIP: Don’t get stuck on the detail of the different breeds. Cattle in each class should be of a similar breed and they should be judged against what makes a good beef type rather than specific breed characteristics.
An overview of cattle breeds in Australia can be found at https://agshowsaustralia.org.au/educational-resources/further-reading
What to look for
You will need to get to know the different parts of the animal and be able to name these correctly, as these will be the judging points. Remember these will differ between the animal’s purpose. For example, a bull and steer are both males, but they have differences in their appearance as a bull is bred for reproducing and has reproductive organs and different muscular structure, while a steer is bred only for the meat market and the muscle will need to be carefully inspected as this affects the cuts of meat, particularly along the forearm, shoulder and hindquarter.
- Start from the feet and work your way up.
For a comprehensive visual guide to all the judging points and what an ideal animal looks like: https://agshowsaustralia.org.au/member-resources/national-competitions-guidelines/
Young Judging speech
Competitors in the oral section are scored on their accuracy of observation, their ability to compare animals, speaking skills and their own presentation.
Have a start, middle and end: begin with an introduction (for example, acknowledging those involved and provide a short overview of characteristics an ideal animal would have in that class), then go into the comparisons of pairs, and finish with a conclusion (for example, thank people for listening). The speech only goes for two minutes, so keep to the point.
The main goal is to explain to the judge why you have placed the animals in the order you have chosen by comparing the animals in pairs – first place with second, second against third, and finally third against fourth. Rather than describing each animal individually, competitors draw comparisons against the attributes of each pair. For example, “In the top pair, I placed animal numbered [eg four] ahead of [eg one] because … [highlight the strengths then weaknesses, if any are present].” Remember to prioritise the most important reasons first and pick only two or three differences.
Judging is subjective, while there are characteristics about an animal to look for, what the judges will be paying close attention to is how clearly competitors express their decision and how they validate it.
It’s not all about the animals – the competitor’s appearance is also important, and judges can mark down for poor presentation. Competitors must wear closed in shoes and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket. Long hair must be tied back, and only minimal jewellery is allowed. Male competitors must wear a tie and long pants. Chewing gum and shorts are definitely not permitted. Female competitors may consider wearing a tie or neck scarf or necklace.
- Speak clearly and concisely – show you believe in what you are saying and pack a punch with your words.
- Deliver your speech to the championship judge – remember eye contact.
- Don’t call the final animal “last”, as this can be insulting to the owner. Instead refer to it being fourth placed.
- Get to know the terminology and don’t be afraid to implement it – the judges will be looking out for it.
- Choose one end of the animal to begin speaking on and move to the other end, from front to rear or vice versa. This will help organise your presentation and make it easier for people to follow what you are saying.
- Be as descriptive and explanatory as possible. For example, use gender terms rather than “it” and go beyond saying one characteristic is “better” when comparing a pair by highlighting why the characteristic is superior.
For a comprehensive list of cattle terminology check out https://agshowsaustralia.org.au/educational-resources/further-reading
This educational content has been developed as part of the Project: Education of Sustainable Agri-Food Production Program. This project is jointly funded through Agricultural Shows Australia and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program