RAM buying season is now in full swing. Rams are predominantly selected on appearance, with buyers prioritising physical soundness as well as breed type when selecting their rams, with the objective of these physical attributes passing down to future progeny.
Selecting rams on physical appearance is always justified, but how about adding another layer of security to what that ram in particular will produce? This is where Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) come into play.
Of course, we’ve all heard about breeding values and a lot of us will think we know what it means – but have you REALLY looked into them properly, and how adding this layer of security when purchasing rams could impact YOUR flock?
Even if you don’t intend to performance record your whole flock (although doing this is very beneficial also), you could still purchase rams with breeding values above breed average, meaning that you could significantly increase the profitability of your flock, in reality, quite easily.
By now, the method of expressing the hill index in Wales has changed. The hill index now represents the economic value of each ram’s genetic merit for traits influencing ewe performance. Here’s an example:
Ram A is breed average and has an index of £2.44, whilst Ram B is within the top 10% of the breed with an index of £12.47, which equates to a difference of over £10. Half of their genetics will be passed onto their offspring, so you would predict that Ram B’s daughters would generate an extra £5 annually for every year they remain within the flock.
In this instance, breeding values indicate that daughters of Ram B would rear more lambs, which would grow faster and have better conformation compared to daughters by Ram A.
So, what do you think? Maybe worth giving it a go? If so, here are some top tips from Sam Boon, Senior Animal Breeding Manager at AHDB-Signet.
Set breeding objectives that will optimise the profitability of your flock. Talk to the ram breeder about your requirements.
Select rams with the right EBVs to realise these objectives.
Go to the Signet website (www.signetdata.com) to get the ram’s latest breeding values. Compare the ram’s EBVs against the breed benchmark to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Remember, EBVs can be compared between flocks, but not between breeds.
Buy early to ensure the availability of a wide selection of recorded rams.
It pays to invest. The difference between an average ram and one with high EBVs could be worth £800 during its lifetime.
Look after the health and nutritional requirements of your ram to ensure he has a long productive life.
Don’t forget to follow the correct biosecurity protocols when purchasing rams, to minimise the risk of buying in diseases/health issues.
If you have any questions with regards to breeding values, please contact the Genetics Team at Farming Connect. Contact details are available on the Farming Connect website.