2015-06-17    facebooktwitterrss

Is Bigger Better When it Comes to Rams?

When it comes to preparing rams for sale does size matter? The answer is probably yes, but not at the cost of ram fitness and longevity.

So why does size matter? Before the development of performance recording the best information we had about the potential growth rate of their offspring was the size of the ram. Even with access to EBVs larger rams still tend to command a higher price, so the pressure is on breeders to increase the size and scale of each individual ram.

Texel Rams

While there is nothing wrong with presenting animals well for sale, an ever-increasing trend to improve on the standard of presentation means that in some cases these rams are not fit for purpose. Resulting from high levels of feed and long lengths of housing, some rams are unable to fulfil their requirements.

Rams should be capable of getting at least 50 ewes in lamb every year and of lasting three or more seasons. With good ram production techniques and equally important good management techniques by the buyer, rams can cover up-to 100 ewes a year and last four to five seasons.

Where rams have been managed to prolong their fitness the decision to cull the ram is based on younger animals having higher genetic merit rather than any actual physical failing in the ram itself. While not to be recommended it has been found that a fit and healthy ram can serve 250 ewes in a single 17 day cycle, but please don’t try this at home.

It is, however, important not to try and promote a single blueprint for ram feeding. Ram fertility can often benefit from additional protein in the 12 weeks leading up to tupping. Rams also need to be in good condition to be able to work. The protein and energy required should mostly be derived from a grass-based diet over the summer, but small amounts of supplementary feed can help the ram reach target condition and size. Year-long feeding should be avoided and ideally early growth rate of lambs should also be grass based.

While buyers are still expecting to see big rams in the sale ring there will be pressure on breeders to feed to potentially unsustainable levels. More and more commercial ram buyers are recognising the benefits of buying rams that have not been overfed and will perform in their own flocks for years to come, so the market place will increasingly be looking for more naturally produced animals.

So, the question every ram breeder should be asking themselves is will the market for their rams still exist in five years’ time? By then the emphasis of buyers will be on rams ‘fit for purpose’ and which contribute to the financial returns of the flock and just as importantly make flock management easier and problems reduced.


Related Links
link Cull Ewe Price Reveals Global Volatility of Lamb Market
link British Wool Exports are Booming
link The Importance of Mature Ewe Size
link Texels Target Reduced Antibiotic Use

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