Follow These Steps When Selecting A Breeding Ram (Video)

A sire contributes more than just its 50 percent of a lamb's genetics, so it's critical to choose a breeding ram carefully. Here's what to look for before you buy.

The future of your flock of sheep is determined by genetics of your dams and sires. When selecting a breeding ram, you should consider desirable traits, health records and a current health assessment.

Large scale operations use data apps and programs that help producers improve genetic predictability in order to produce a more consistent product. This product could be breeding stock, meat or wool.

Hobby farmers are more likely to purchase one breeding ram to cover their flock, bought from another hobby farm. Even though the process is less formal for small-scale sheep farms, the following steps should be taken to select the most desirable ram.

With the understanding that rams make up more than 50 percent of genetics, and on average should have superior genetics to ewes, take the time to make the right choice. 


Read more: You need to evaluate your sheep’s body conditioning before breeding season. Here’s how.


Traits

According to the sheep section of the PennState Extension Office website, an ideal breeding ram should have certain physical characteristics. These, as listed on their site, include:

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  • a long, square, level rump,
  • long, smooth thick muscle,
  • adequate diameter of cannon bone,
  • a long, wide loin,
  • a strong, level, thick top,
  • well-sprung ribs, or in other words a round rib cage with large volume
  • a deep forerib,
  • smooth shoulders,
  • a masculine neck and head,
  • a trim neat throat and breast,
  • strong upright pasterns, and
  • Adequate and evenly sized testicles
  • And the feet and legs should be placed directly underneath the animal

The article also warns against the following conditions: “pigeon-toed, knock kneed, bow legged, splay footed, cow hocked, sickle hocked, post legged, buck kneed, calf kneed, and/or weak pasterns.”

To learn more about traits you should read the breed standard for the type of sheep you want to breed. Understand the size, wool type and color characteristics of the breed to identify when selecting a ram.

You can read more about the conditions on their page titled “Ram Selection Principals.” 


Read more: This first-aid checklist will help you keep your sheep in shape!


Health Records

There are three types of production records in sheep production: on-farm performance records, central performance tests and across-flock EBVs (Expected Breeding Value).

Most small-scale farms will not have EBVs or central performance tests. But they should still keep on-farm performance records.

These reports include individual animal identification, birth dates, weaning weights, vaccination records and information of the birth type, type of rearing and age of dam. 

Health Assessment Checklist

A healthy sheep is alert. It should not be secluded from the flock.

Sheep that limp, have abscesses, cloudy eyes or sore mouth lesions, show respiratory symptoms, or are in extremely poor body condition should not be purchased for breeding. If many sheep on a farm appear to be in this condition, choose another breeder.

In addition, check the teeth and mouth of the sheep. Become familiar with how many teeth each age should have. And check to ensure the mouth shape does not have an overshot (parrot mouth) or undershot (monkey mouth). These genetic defects make grazing and getting proper nutrition difficult and get passed on to offspring.  

Print the following checklist to take with you to assess the potential ram. 

Birth Information
  • Record for Vaccinations
  • Birth Record
  • Weaning Weight and Age
  • Birth Type (singe, twin, triplet)
  • Dam’s Age at Birth
  • Sire’s Age at Birth
Current Health
  • Alertness: Poor/Healthy 
  • Eyes: Poor/Healthy 
  • Abscesses: Yes/No
  • Mouth Lesions: Yes/No
  • Respiratory Issues: Yes/No
  • Broken Teeth: Yes/No
Desirable Traits
  • a long, square, level rump,
  • long, smooth thick muscle,
  • adequate diameter of cannon bone,
  • a long, wide loin,
  • a strong, level, thick top,
  • well-sprung ribs, or in other words a round rib cage with large volume
  • a deep forerib,
  • smooth shoulders,
  • a masculine neck and head,
  • a trim neat throat and breast,
  • strong upright pasterns, and
  • Adequate and evenly sized testicles
  • And the feet and legs should be placed directly underneath the animal.
Undesirable Traits
  • Pigeon toed
  • Knock kneed
  • Bow legged
  • Splay footed
  • Cow hocked
  • Sickle hocked
  • Post legged
  • Buck kneed
  • Calf kneed
  • Weak pestern
  • Parrot mouth
  • Monkey mouth

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