Investing in new rams

Investing in new rams is a big decision and new breeding stock with better genetics than the last generation will take flock performance forward. Find out what you should consider when making these decisions, with advice from independent sheep consultant, Kate Philips.

Investing in new rams

Ram priority check

  • Physical soundness teeth, feet, legs, testicles
  • Will he deliver superior lambs with superior performance? Higher growth rates and less days on farm mean lower costs.

How to improve lamb growth and performance?

  • Are this seasons lambs killing out in the spec? If not, why not? Too light, too lean, too fat, too heavy?
  • Regularly reviewing your kill sheets will help you to choose the right ram based on desirable estimated breeding values (EBVs) for the particular trait. For instance, if you are struggling to get finish on lambs you would be best to choose a ram with a positive EBV for fat. Likewise if lambs are growing too slowly you need a positive EBV for growth rate.
  • Make sure to discuss where you need to improve with a breeder who records EBVs so that you can match the ram to your flock.

Buying in the ring or direct?

  • Sales are a great place to compare rams and to meet like-minded farmers, however any gathering of sheep from a number of breeders poses the risk of disease spread. So if you do buy from an auction make sure to get as much flock history as possible health treatments and also feeding, before taking stock home.Implement a proper quarantine and biosecurity procedure think about lameness, anthelmintic resistant worms and sheep scab. Discuss with your vet appropriate health treatments.
  • If you buy direct from the farm then you will see a range of other stock and you will quickly get the measure of the standard of husbandry. You should also reduce disease risks. Many breeders who sell from home are basing their ram production on grazing rather than high concentrate inputs.

Avoid overfed rams

  • There is a lot of evidence to suggest that rams that have been overfed are lazy and sub-fertile, so do not buy rams that are very fat and have been plainly fed excessive, perhaps ad-lib, levels of concentrates.
  • High levels of concentrates appear to have long term effects on liver function, joints, feet and the rumen and can lead to a very short working life. To avoid these negative effects, aim for a forage to concentrate ration of no less than 60:40, making forage the main part of the diet.