quick guide toMerino Fleece Judging
Where to start
How judging works
Young Judging speech
Where to start
This category focuses on just the wool from one breed of sheep, the Merino. There are two classes with each class featuring four fleeces of a similar wool type – fine wool, medium wool or strong wool.
Gain a thorough knowledge of the different sections of a fleece as there will be changes in the fibre depending on what part of the body the fleece is from. For example, the section around the tail will often contain stain – remnants of excrement, while the wool from around the shoulder should be clean and fine.
Each fleece is judged using the Scale of Points as used by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia.
- The first thing is to understand and estimate the yield of a fleece, this means estimating what the percentage of clean wool. Dirt, vegetation and grease will all reduce the yield. Competitors are required to calculate the clean fleece weight and allocate points accordingly. This can also be referred to as “top and noil”.
- Trueness to type or style is about comparing the fleeces to see how even they are. This is relevant for manufacturing the wool.
- Examine the “soundness” means checking fibre strength. A small section of wool should be able to be pulled from each end and not break. If it breaks easily, it is “tender” wool and will score less.
- When evaluating “bloom” or colour, competitors are looking for a white, bright wool. The more creamier or dull the fibre is, the less it will score.
- Wool character refers to the definition and consistency of crimp in the wool.
- Competitors will also need to allocate points according to uniform length, handle (the way it feels, soft and elastic for spinning), the density of fibres and how even the fleece is.
- The best way to handle a fleece is to roll it around.
- Ensure the entire fleece is examined to expose any faults, taking care not to cause damage through unnecessary plucking, pulling or tangling the wool.
- Assess each fleece by systematically going through the list of wool characteristics.
- Don’t be overwhelmed by the point system, instead view this as a way to systematically break down the judging into sections to follow. The score card shows the maximum points that can be allocated, with indicators as to how points can be scored. For example, in the colour or bloom section, points would be awarded as follows: very bright 10, bright 8, creamy 6, dull 4.
Download the most recent version of the fleece judging instructions from National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia: www.agshowsaustralia.org.au/educational-resources/further-reading
A video run-through of judging: www.agshowsaustralia.org.au/educational-resources/further-reading
For a comprehensive visual guide to all the judging points, ideal characteristics and terminology: https://agshowsaustralia.org.au/member-resources/national-competitions-guidelines/
For diagrams of fibre in the judging categories: www.agshowsaustralia.org.au/educational-resources/further-reading
Young Judging speech
Competitors in the oral section are scored on their accuracy of observation, their ability to compare fleeces, 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 fleece would have in that class), then go into the comparisons of pairs, and finish with a conclusion (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 fleeces in the order you have chosen by comparing the fleeces in pairs – first place with second, second against third, and finally third against fourth. Rather than describing each fleece individually, competitors draw comparisons against the attributes of each pair. For example, “In the top pair, I placed fleece 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 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 fleeces – competitor 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. Female competitors may consider wearing a tie or neck scarf or necklace. Chewing gum and shorts are definitely not permitted.
- 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.
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