Buying the Right Ram
Information from a presentation by Delma Kennedy, OMAFRA Sheep Specialist
Sheep producers looking to buy new ram genetics listened to a presentation by Delma Kennedy, OMAFRA Sheep Specialist, at the recent Ontario Sheep Farmers District 11 meeting in New Liskeard. Delma presented several factors to think about when selecting a ram.
The first question to ask is, "What do I need"? What type of production system do I have and where do I market my lambs?
Genetics is the framework for which everything else in the flock management rests on. The rams used in the last 3 generations on the farm breeding ewes will have provided 87.5% of the genetic material in your flock.
Delma suggested than ram selection needs to focus on 3 parameters:
You do not want to bring any new diseases onto your farm, and you want your ram to be able to supply eye-appealing lambs that perform to your goals.
With health, there are flocks that are low or free of certain diseases (i.e. foot rot or orf). Knowing what the health status is of the flock you are selecting from can save you from a lot of trouble down the line.
Performance selection measures include days-to-market and carcass quality. Pounds weaned per ewe and feed costs are also relevant in selecting replacement ewes.
GenOvis is the Canadian sheep performance testing program. From the data inputed top rams can be identified and selected for breeding material. The challenge is that more producers need to input data for the results to be meaningful.
The data collected can be used to create EPDs for individual sheep. Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) are a calculation of the genetic potential of that animal. It pulls in data from relatives and groups results to develop the number that shows how different an animal is compared to the average or base for the individual's breed. This helps to increase the accuracy for selecting superior genetics.
For more information on using EPDs for ram selection, this factsheet is helpful: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/sheep/facts/select.htm