Swiss Grading

The Valais Blacknose Society strive to preserve and uphold Swiss breeding standards in conjunction with supporting and educating fellow breeders to continue producing quality stock therefore VBS proudly partners with Oberwalliser Schwarznasen Schafzuchtverband (Upper Valais Sheep Breeders Association) to help implement these time old traditions here in the UK.

What you need to know

Grading applies to animals between 4 – 36 months of age (animals over 3 years old are not graded) and can only be officially carried out by qualified Oberwalliser Schwarznasen Schafzuchtverband/UK experts. The grading process is based on the overall Swiss breed standards and is broken down into three main categories. Each category consists of sub-categories and criteria which reflect the overall breed standards:

  1. Appearance
    • Colour Features
    • Head & Neck
    • Horns
    • Chest, Shoulders & Withers
    • Back & Loin
    • Pelvis, Abdomen & Hindquarters
    • Leg well-muscled
  2. Conformation
    • Stance
    • Limbs
    • Gait
  3. Wool

The points awarded are identifiable with the age of the sheep at the time of grading.  For example, up to 12 months of age sheep are graded in 4’s (maximum of 444).  Between 1 & 2 years of age sheep are graded in 5’s (maximum of 555 points).  And over 2 years of age sheep are graded in 6’s (maximum of 666).

The points are awarded based on the assessment of each category and its criteria.

If a sheep is to have points deducted, you will see this reflected in the points in the relevant category.  For example, if black is missing on the hocks of a 6 month old lamb, the points would be 344.

If an animal is awarded the full number of points in each overall category (Appearance, Conformation & Wool) it is termed ‘Maximum Points.’  Maximum points demonstrate a prime example of the breed, and that the sheep has met all aspects of the breed standards.

 

 

Age

Maximum Rating per Category  

Maximum Total Points

Appearance Conformation Wool
4-8 months 4 4 4 12
8-12 months 4 4 4 12
12-18 months 5 5 5 15
18-24 months 5 5 5 15
24-36 months 6 6 6 18

 

Maximum points are not awarded based on single sub-category criteria (so to say that an animal can be awarded the full number of points for overall ‘Appearance’ based on colour features alone is not correct, the animal is also graded on the other sub-categories within that specific section in addition to the overall Conformation and Wool grading categories.

There is misconception that offspring born from ‘maximum point’ animals can also be classified as maximum points. This is not correct, and each individual animal must be graded officially by a qualified expert and awarded the full number of points based on its own merit, not on that of parentage or ancestral history.

It is important to note that the Swiss grading process enables a thorough assessment of the entire animal. Overall appearance, conformation and wool is paramount, an animal with correct colour features but lack of conformation, unbalanced, or flawed wool would be deducted points when graded.

There are in some instances where animals will be disqualified from competitions if presented with major flaws such as: incorrect mouths, bad legs, single testicle etc.  These are graded as 0 points in the relevant category.

To date, grading has traditionally been carried out as part of the annual Blacknose Beauties National Show & Sale where sheep awarded with the highest overall points qualify for show competitions on the following day.

VBS are working towards increasing expertise and the number of qualified graders in the UK in order to be able to make grading available to as many breeders as possible throughout the country.

Sheep which have been graded have their points recorded on Grassroots and this can be viewed on the pedigree certificate.

Understanding the elements of grading can help breeders to evaluate stock quality when purchasing, selling, breeding, or selecting show stock.

Official grading scores can only be awarded by experts who have gained qualifications with the Oberwalliser Schwarznasen Schafzuchtverband.  Currently VBS is the only official Society outside of Switzerland to provide a grading service to its members (alternative grading systems may apply in other European countries).

For more detailed information please see the VBS Breed Standards