Value in taking your time


In Livestock4 Minutes

By now you would have received a ram order form from a ram breeder. Ram buying season coincides with one of the busiest times of the year.

A day may seem hard to justify investing too much time in picking rams; coupled up with the multitude of information presented it can be rather overwhelming. However, the decision made on selection day will impact on the profitability and sustainability of your farm for years to come. Below are a few things you can do before ram buying that could help you make the right decisions on selection day:

Trait selection

Rams are bought for the progeny they will produce, so remember you are breeding a sheep for future performance. For that reason, it is important to keep in mind market trends and different production scenarios, for example is facial eczema or drench resistance likely to become a challenge?

Focus on the traits most likely to not only make you money but also save you money. Then ask or check if these traits are being recorded by a breeder or does the information rely on outside flock linkages? Wherever your ram breeder goes you will go too, so make sure the breeding objectives between you and your ram breeder are aligned.

A great tool to help you check the progress a breeder has made over the years for a given trait is a genetic trend graph. Ask the breeder to provide you with genetic trend graphs for the traits you are after showing where the flock stands in comparison with the industry average. The example illustrated shows how to interpret the data presented on genetic trend graphs.

Find out where you are and determine where you want to be

The challenge is always to know how your flock is improving over time and to clarify your ram buying decisions this season, it will certainly help to know where your numbers stand now.

Determining the level of flock performance against all traits you believe are important or have highlighted in step one is the first task. Then, because genetics is a long-term decision, ask yourself where you would like your flock to be in five or 10 years? If you find yourself writing down “fast growth,” “high fertility,” or “good survival,” make sure you stop and set specific and measurable goals because without adding a number to it there is no way of measuring progress.

Make a plan and talk to the breeder

With a clear idea on what direction your flock is going to take, the next step is to make a plan for how you are going to get there. Choosing a breeder is more important than choosing rams. So put some time aside to discuss with ram breeders your goals and achievements.

Breeders rely on ram buyers’ feedback to review their breeding program. Having an honest conversation with a breeder before sale day will not only impact on your ram buying decisions but also guide the future of ram breeding in New Zealand.

  • Dayanne is Zoetis Genetics North Island Area Manager and Technical Lead – Sheep.