Buying a hill ram
Buying a Signet Recorded Hill Ram
It is important to identify rams with superior genetic merit, as their genes are the only attribute passed from one generation to the next.
This is easier said than done, because so many factors influence an animal’s appearance – including its age, whether it was reared as a single or twin and most importantly the amount it was fed.
Recording schemes were developed to make the process of identifying superior genetics easier. Records of performance are analysed to tease out the non-genetic influences on an animal’s performance so that its true genetic potential can be assessed.
This is important for traits that are visible, such as growth rate and carcase conformation, and absolutely vital when it comes to maternal traits that can’t be assessed visually.
Investing in hill rams with superior genetics can realise an extra £600-£1000 over the life of their progeny. Commercial producers should source Signet-recorded rams with high Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for traits of importance to benefit from their investment.
Interpreting EBVs when buying a ram
EBVs, Indexes and Accuracy Values are often displayed on sale charts to highlight a ram’s breeding potential; where the central line represents the average level of performance within the breed.
EBVs and Breeding Indexes indicate an animal’s genetic merit for a specific trait or breeding objective. Accuracy values indicate how much is known about the animal and the degree to which EBVs might change over time.
Sale charts can be freely accessed and printed from the Signet database (www.signetdata.com), via the section ‘Sheep Search’.
Ram buyers should also obtain from Signet a Breed Benchmark to help determine where an animal ranks within the breed for a specific trait.
The Signet website also provides lists of sheep that are currently for sale and Flock Finder, a listing of breeders that record their sheep.
A New Evaluation for Hill Sheep
In 2020 the genetic evaluation services provided to hill breeds were re-launched with support from a Welsh Government funded project “The Hill Ram Scheme” run by Hybu Cig Cymru.
As a result:
- EBVs have been completely updated, rebased and are now produced on a monthly basis
- Carcase traits, like muscle and fat depth, are assessed on a weight (rather than age) adjusted basis to enhance the carcase attributes of hill lambs
- Breeding indexes have been updated to reflect the economic priorities on commercial hill farms
- New research has been initiated for traits like lamb survival and ewe longevity
- Over 30 new hill flocks have signed up to start recording their lamb crop, increasing the impact of this important work and the choice for ram buyers.
Breeding values have never been more accessible, accurate or relevant to hill sheep producers as they are today.
Ram Buying Tips
There are a number of factors to consider when buying a ram using performance records:
- Set breeding objectives that optimise flock profitability
- Talk to the ram breeder about these requirements
- Select rams with the right balance of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to realise these objectives
- Review each ram’s EBVs using the Signet database and compare them to the Breed Benchmark to identify their strengths and weaknesses
- Buy early to get access to the widest selection of recorded rams
- Look after the health and nutritional requirements of your rams to ensure they have a long productive life