Scottish Blackface judging
On Tuesday the 25th of February, Roxan had the great pleasure of being a sponsor at the Blackface Sheep association stock judging competition at John Swan Limited, St Boswell's mart.
The event ran from 7:30 at night, with the final judge taking place at 10pm, followed by sandwiches, drinks and a bit of banter in the canteen afterwards. The cold and crispy night didn't deter folk, and it was great to see such a full turn out.
Unlike a regular auction that you might expect to take place at the mart, a stock judging competition follows a different set of guidelines. No animals are auctioned off, but instead the eyes of all those competing are put to the test, to see who can pick out the best animal – with the precedent being set by a judge.
We sent along our newest field agent, George, to set up shop with Roxan banners and flyers and report some findings. With the ring full and the competition about to start, what happened next came as a bit of a shock to our newbie sheep-enthusiast.
Waiting in anticipation, and expecting an imminent explosion of hollering and bidding that usually comes from an auctioneer once an animal enters the ring, instead was hit by an absolute wall of silence.
The first four ewes entered the ring, and all crowd noise ceased immediately. The sheep nervously trotted into the middle of the ring, and stood. The silence gave way to a few short sharp intakes of spectators’ breath as the sheep began to turn and move around the ring. A few mutterings and exchanges, and then heads down to mark a well thought out decision.
Four Blackface sheep would enter the ring at any one time. Each animal would have wrapped around it's horn, a large strip of coloured tape; either red, yellow, blue or no tape. Around the edges of the ring, hung large boards partitioned off into the corresponding colours (no tape's colour was white). On each block of colour was a letter; Red was A, Blue was B, X was White, and Yellow Y.
Competition participants would score the letters in order , on each round, starting with the animal they deemed best, and scoring downwards. For example, if the sheep with yellow tape on its horn looked the best to you, it would go at the top of the list, then the sheep with blue tape, B...and so on.
Judging the animal was not as straight forward; the beginner stock judger might fall into the trap of placing the largest, stockiest animals at the top of the list, but because the decision falls on the judge's preference and much of it is largely down to breed character, you really have to know what you're looking for. Quality of wool, shape and colour of legs, even the way the animal holds it's head - almost an insight into it's personality, all factor into consideration.
Our 'newbie' didn't have a lot of luck, but thankfully those who knew what they were doing were a bit more successful!
Back in the canteen people enjoyed a spread of soup and sandwiches, and a few drinks. It was a good chance to mill around and catch up. Our Roxan stand was set up at the back of the canteen, and it was great to see a people interested in our spread of literature and have a chat with a few folk. A short prize giving took place at the end of the night, and the sponsors and the judges were thanked.
St Boswell's mart regularly hosts judging and sales events for anyone to attend, and it's warm and friendly atmosphere is welcoming to old faces and new. News and information on upcoming events can be found at http://www.johnswan.co.uk/. To find out more about the Scottish Blackface, visit www.scottish-blackface.co.uk