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Thread: Breeding rams

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    Breeding rams

    I've recently brought some good quality pedigree Charolais ewe lambs with the intention of breeding some rams, they will mainly be used as replacements for our farm although hopefully their will be a few spare for sale.
    they are from a MV accredited flock although I will not be keeping them accredited as it is simply not practical,
    my question is should they be signet recorded, scrapie monitored,what should I vaccinate against/ test for etc to increase their value when it comes to selling them? This is a bit of a side project so I can't justify spending to much time or money on it if it isn't going to pay,
    Your thoughts and opinions much appreciated!!

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    Re: Breeding rams

    You will have to put yourself above the line in a market where you will face stiff competition
    So anything you can do to 'add value' or promote sales is going to be good

    Signet recording will cost you but may be worth it if you have enough ewes to make it work (you need to use at least 2 rams a year with ideally 30+ progeny each for the statistics to be relevant). So that's about 40 ewes as a minimum to record/back fat scan etc
    Scrapie monitoring is only really needed for export
    Pedigree papers /registration is only needed if you are selling rams to other pedigree breeders as opposed to commercial farmers who won't give a damn

    Vaccinate as you would for any of your commercial ewes---it's just a way of preventing loss through some diseases
    Disease testing pre-sale is a good idea I think. I test for border disease/MV/Johnes etc to confidence to my clients

    And of course anything you do is of little relevance unless you market your rams

    I think that in the future ram production will increasingly be done by fewer larger flocks of 300 or more ewes where detailed/accurate/statistically relevant recording is easier to do----these flocks may be owned by individuals but there will be a large proportion owned by companies with access to research facilities and good genetic planning

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim W View Post

    I think that in the future ram production will increasingly be done by fewer larger flocks of 300 or more ewes where detailed/accurate/statistically relevant recording is easier to do----these flocks may be owned by individuals but there will be a large proportion owned by companies with access to research facilities and good genetic planning
    Really think so tim w the sooner the better all of grass to I hope instead of people with 10 to 40 ewes pumping scrap to the limit with meal from the day and hour they look remotely interested in meal in a house 9 months of the year but then I suppose these 'companies' will be no different

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Guiggs View Post
    I've recently brought some good quality pedigree Charolais ewe lambs with the intention of breeding some rams, they will mainly be used as replacements for our farm although hopefully their will be a few spare for sale.
    they are from a MV accredited flock although I will not be keeping them accredited as it is simply not practical,
    my question is should they be signet recorded, scrapie monitored,what should I vaccinate against/ test for etc to increase their value when it comes to selling them? This is a bit of a side project so I can't justify spending to much time or money on it if it isn't going to pay,
    Your thoughts and opinions much appreciated!!
    your first job will be to get the breeding (structure and shape ) and feeding right , your first years you will struggle with trade to outsiders with no history if grass fed , so you will need to keep costs to a minimum while at the same time producing something that at least looks the part . Are you sure you know what a good one should be like in natural condition and how to rear a breeding animal for long life ? ,great if you do your already ahead ! there are plenty of good sheep farmers breeding rams that treat every ram lamb like a fat lamb fed longer ie feed to excess to get the size but this wont develop the rumen , which is not good and will do you no favours when it melts in its new home .

    Mv accreditation is important , for the better sales you will need to be accredited to get the better prices long term if you increase your flock .

    Vaccinate for standard clostridial things and pasturella properly , nothing will hurt more than getting a lamb ready to sale or shearling to 12 months old and finding it dead from pulpy kidney etc

    Orf ? though you may not have it , rams you sell may (probally will ) meet it on a commercial farm at tupping which may render him temporarily infertile although not bad but may affect your reputation

    AS for signet , well its up to you , but without the above right first , will cost a lot that might end up wasted if say your stock are throwing overshot jaws / bad pasturns , poor shape etc a few generations in . Although some are looking at figures there are still many that buy on sight / price first ,figures would be a bonus but wont pay extra especially if your new , so the initial costs would be for your own use /long term only .

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Another thing on my mind is the feeding of concs' , it strikes me that everybody does it, the guy I brought mine from certainly does and says that if anybody tells you they don't then it's a lie, his lambs have it in front of them from day one but I really don't like the idea of it, I don't want to sell an animal that melts away as soon as its stopped being fed, I want people to know exactly what they're buying but how can I compete with everybody else if they are feeding? Will people buy a young ram that's half the size of the one in the next pen? Can I ever hope to achieve the same prices if they're not pushed? Or have I got to accept I will have to feed concs'?

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Guiggs View Post
    Another thing on my mind is the feeding of concs' , it strikes me that everybody does it, the guy I brought mine from certainly does and says that if anybody tells you they don't then it's a lie, his lambs have it in front of them from day one but I really don't like the idea of it, I don't want to sell an animal that melts away as soon as its stopped being fed, I want people to know exactly what they're buying but how can I compete with everybody else if they are feeding? Will people buy a young ram that's half the size of the one in the next pen? Can I ever hope to achieve the same prices if they're not pushed? Or have I got to accept I will have to feed concs'?
    generally no ! not at least untill your a few years down the line and your stock have proven themselves .

    Have a char breeder friend who sells ram lambs , recons on half a tonne good creep pellets birth (dec ) - builth (sept) + to get in the same ball park as the rest (costs inc those that dont make it ??) although sale prices are higher than commercial sheep , general costs are far higher , registrations , entries , health schemes , recording , etc etc

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Guiggs View Post
    Another thing on my mind is the feeding of concs' , it strikes me that everybody does it, the guy I brought mine from certainly does and says that if anybody tells you they don't then it's a lie, his lambs have it in front of them from day one but I really don't like the idea of it, I don't want to sell an animal that melts away as soon as its stopped being fed, I want people to know exactly what they're buying but how can I compete with everybody else if they are feeding? Will people buy a young ram that's half the size of the one in the next pen? Can I ever hope to achieve the same prices if they're not pushed? Or have I got to accept I will have to feed concs'?
    It's down to marketing---if you want to sell at a sale yard then maybe they have to be fed on concentrates

    If you sell off farm then this may not apply----but you have to get people to come to you & for that you need to have something good to bring them in

    You have to get the punter to understand that they are buying a DNA implanting machine and as long as the DNA/sperm gets through it doesn't matter if it is delivered by an overweight monster or a fit balanced ram---it's what he's delivering that's most important
    Most people who buy at sales don't understand this or forget it the moment they see a 'nice animal with a bit of style'

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Guiggs View Post
    Can I ever hope to achieve the same prices if they're not pushed?
    What does it matter? If you can sell a ram at 300 and make 200 clear profit you will be better off than the man who sells a ram for 500 and makes 50 profit
    You can also undercut him

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Agree with most of what's posted above. On the mv thing, if you are only planning on breeding your own and selling the odd spare one, then it's not going to be worth the cost/complication for you. If you expand in the future and want to sell more, then you can always separate them and test up to become accredited at that stage.

    As for recording, are your new ewe lambs from a recorded flock with decent figures already (thinking of Leics flocks)? If so, you will have a well connected flock where the figures might be meaningful. There are several other flocks selling the recorded principle over there already, so their marketing will also be selling yours, if recorded and performing well. Recording won't help sell your sheep if it shows them up to be average (of worse) of course.

    I'm intrigued to know the origin of these ewe lambs, given the feeding comments.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    How many of the ram lambs do you expect to be good enough to breed with from your flock?

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilO View Post
    Agree with most of what's posted above. On the mv thing, if you are only planning on breeding your own and selling the odd spare one, then it's not going to be worth the cost/complication for you. If you expand in the future and want to sell more, then you can always separate them and test up to become accredited at that stage.

    As for recording, are your new ewe lambs from a recorded flock with decent figures already (thinking of Leics flocks)? If so, you will have a well connected flock where the figures might be meaningful. There are several other flocks selling the recorded principle over there already, so their marketing will also be selling yours, if recorded and performing well. Recording won't help sell your sheep if it shows them up to be average (of worse) of course.

    I'm intrigued to know the origin of these ewe lambs, given the feeding comments.
    Im aware of the flock/flocks your probably talking about in leics and I may well have a chat with one of those guys in the near future however I crossed over a couple of borders for mine, Oxfordshire to be precise, I won't name names however the bloke was helpful and honest so I can't knock him for that, I've seen all his breeding ewes and this years lambs and all his ram lambs and shearlings in the summer when I purchased one for my "commercial" ewes.
    First time round I'm going to use his new champion ram for breeding and he's offered to buy any ram lambs I want to sell for a good price if I've fed them!, like I say I can't knock him really, I may keep a few ram lambs separate and not feed them any concs' and see how they do, they can stay on the farm if necessary or go in the freezer!
    Oh and yes his flock is recorded!

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Castle Farm View Post
    How many of the ram lambs do you expect to be good enough to breed with from your flock?
    Well I'm pretty green at this but I'd like to think in the region of 30-40% ?? Of the rams would be good enough, probably as sires in a commercial flock rather than a pedigree flock!

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Like others have said, it will be a struggle to get your first customers , as realistically if you take grass fed rams to sale then alongside a pen of cabbage monsters they are going to look a tad pathetic . The key would be to sell off farm, where the purchaser can see how you farm and the ground they are reared on, also the fact that they aren't pampered etc etc. Aslong as purchasers buy into the forage fed idea then they will also realise that without the high protein concentrates that initially the rams will lack the filled out muscular look that the well stuffed rams have ! But once you've sold rams and they do a good job and last an age then word will spread "I've still got that old Charollais ram I bought off Joe bloggs, he must be 5 or 6 now and still looking well" and slowly your customer base will increase.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    The general assumption here and elsewhere is that producing grass fed rams as opposed to superstuffed monsters is a good thing and therefor the only issue for someone going down this novel "grass fed" route is the "marketing problem".
    It is not this simple. Our first grass fed rams were born in 2007 and for that and the following season we had pure NZ Suffolk lambs, NZ sired lambs out of UK Suffolk ewes ("50/50"s ) and pure UK Suffolk lambs running together in a single group. It soon became obvious that on a grass only diet the pure NZ lambs really thrived, the pure UK did poorly and the 50/50s were somewhere in the middle. What was equally obvious was that the pure NZ lambs grazed continuously just like locusts and the pure UK spent more time resting than grazing. Similarly the 50/50s were somewhere in the middle. Over the coming years we also found similar differences in the ewes with the pure NZ ewes milking well and sustaining a reasonable body condition on a grass only diet and the UK ewes rapidly looking like hat racks and struggling to recover condition post weaning.
    The point I am trying to make is not so much about NZ genetics but rather that if you are using sheep that have been selected over many generations on the basis of response to concentrates then the conversion to sheep that thrive on grass will not be automatic or immediate just because you stop feeding concentrates. Unfortunately within all terminal breeds the heavy use of concentrates is now so endemic that it is very difficult to source any sheep that do not have these concentrate responsive genes within the last couple of generations. I also recall from Global Ovine's talks his advice that for sheep to thrive on grass they needed " a big motor" ie large stomachs that could digest large quantities of grass rather than super sleek animals so beloved of the show ring so again there is more to breeding "Grass Fed" rams than just removing the creep feeder.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim W View Post
    I think that in the future ram production will increasingly be done by fewer larger flocks of 300 or more ewes where detailed/accurate/statistically relevant recording is easier to do----these flocks may be owned by individuals but there will be a large proportion owned by companies with access to research facilities and good genetic planning
    We've started to see some 'blended' flocks here, where a number of individual owners all run there pedigree flocks together in one location, it seems to be working, they have shared access to rams, records are more accurate due to larger numbers. Ram buyers still buy from each individual, just at one central location.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by easyram1 View Post
    The point I am trying to make is not so much about NZ genetics but rather that if you are using sheep that have been selected over many generations on the basis of response to concentrates then the conversion to sheep that thrive on grass will not be automatic or immediate just because you stop feeding concentrates. Unfortunately within all terminal breeds the heavy use of concentrates is now so endemic that it is very difficult to source any sheep that do not have these concentrate responsive genes within the last couple of generations. I also recall from Global Ovine's talks his advice that for sheep to thrive on grass they needed " a big motor" ie large stomachs that could digest large quantities of grass rather than super sleek animals so beloved of the show ring so again there is more to breeding "Grass Fed" rams than just removing the creep feeder.
    This makes sense - a few years back a tiny and very ugly Welsh mountain ram broke in with my ewes for a day or so and I was dreading seeing the lambs. However I was amazed how well they performed/weighed on grass alone compared to the lambs from some of my high index texel rams. I was expecting the lambs to be significantly smaller/poorer at weaning but they were only a Kg or two lighter and fit for slaughter.

    I suppose the Welsh mountain ram and his ancestors had never seen any concentrates so his offspring when given decent grass really performed. Obviously not saying using a small Welsh ram is the way forward but it really did make me think about the importance of genetics that perform on grass.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Curvebender View Post
    This makes sense - a few years back a tiny and very ugly Welsh mountain ram broke in with my ewes for a day or so and I was dreading seeing the lambs. However I was amazed how well they performed/weighed on grass alone compared to the lambs from some of my high index texel rams. I was expecting the lambs to be significantly smaller/poorer at weaning but they were only a Kg or two lighter and fit for slaughter.

    I suppose the Welsh mountain ram and his ancestors had never seen any concentrates so his offspring when given decent grass really performed. Obviously not saying using a small Welsh ram is the way forward but it really did make me think about the importance of genetics that perform on grass.
    not sure all the terminal breeding signetarians would want that broadcast

    totally agree with easyram , its different sheep genes that respond to concentrate use as well as the greed of the animal , just imagine the improvements terminal schemes would make on a forage only diet .

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Curvebender View Post
    This makes sense - a few years back a tiny and very ugly Welsh mountain ram broke in with my ewes for a day or so and I was dreading seeing the lambs. However I was amazed how well they performed/weighed on grass alone compared to the lambs from some of my high index texel rams. I was expecting the lambs to be significantly smaller/poorer at weaning but they were only a Kg or two lighter and fit for slaughter.

    I suppose the Welsh mountain ram and his ancestors had never seen any concentrates so his offspring when given decent grass really performed. Obviously not saying using a small Welsh ram is the way forward but it really did make me think about the importance of genetics that perform on grass.
    That performance was due mostly to hybrid vigour which is the reason that we cross-breed to produce prime lambs.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by NZDan View Post
    We've started to see some 'blended' flocks here, where a number of individual owners all run there pedigree flocks together in one location, it seems to be working, they have shared access to rams, records are more accurate due to larger numbers. Ram buyers still buy from each individual, just at one central location.
    Recording works in NZ because it's grass based and there's a level playing field. In the UK, one breeder may be feeding 12% concentrates, his neighbour's lambs might be on 16%, another breeder on 18% and the guy at the far end on forage only, yet they're all lumped together in Signet's system that must penalise the guy on 12% and the bloke who's not using concentrates at all. I don't think Signet takes protein % into account, but perhaps somebody in this thread can confirm whether they do so.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by posterpat View Post
    That performance was due mostly to hybrid vigour which is the reason that we cross-breed to produce prime lambs.
    The performance of progeny from 2 different breeds will average out half way between that of the 2 breeds involved plus hybrid vigour relative to the genetic diversity of the 2 breeds involved. Hybrid vigour is more exhibited in traits with low heritability such as health, survival, litter size, but much less exhibited in traits with higher heritability such as growth. Curvebender's results fall where science to date would predict, but if his lambs were reared on grass only by ewes with a long selection history of superior performance on grass only, then I would expect to see large weaning differences to traditional ranges in the UK.
    The annual job of any ewe is over once her lambs are weaned. If her lambs need additional feeding to finish, or she needs additional feed to restore herself to mating order, 2 things need to be considered;
    1. Feeding from late pregnancy onwards, quantity for the month either side of lambing and quality until weaning.
    2. Breeding. Have their sires been selected in a regime that reflects the ram buyers management?


    Signet and all other recording services do not and cannot correct for the management differences (including protein levels) in each pedigree flock. Common sires do offer additional correction between flocks as progeny numbers provide more data. Posterpat is quite right that NZ flocks are all grass fed, but it's no level playing field as some breeders are better pasture feeders than others. It is a fair assumption nowadays to say that the major breeders in NZ are well linked in both Sire Reference Schemes and with the Central Progeny Test flocks, these enable the number crunching to eliminate between flock differences so sires and their progeny can be ranked on all their traits of commercial importance.
    Until the UK sheep breeding industry becomes more "commercial" in its management and focused on servicing the commercial farmer, I suggest that buyers just accept that Signet ranks rams from best to worst in each trait based on the data submitted under whatever feeding regime is instigated by the breeder and corrected where genetic linkages permit. Therefore it is very important to buy from the breeder who "walks your talk".

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by posterpat View Post
    Recording works in NZ because it's grass based and there's a level playing field. In the UK, one breeder may be feeding 12% concentrates, his neighbour's lambs might be on 16%, another breeder on 18% and the guy at the far end on forage only, yet they're all lumped together in Signet's system that must penalise the guy on 12% and the bloke who's not using concentrates at all. I don't think Signet takes protein % into account, but perhaps somebody in this thread can confirm whether they do so.
    The Signet BLUP system compares sheep within 'contemporary groups', so their performance is compared with all other sheep that have been managed as that group within the same flock, and then common genetic links are used to compare between those groups/flocks. This goes some way to allow a comparison between sheep on high levels of nutritional management and those managed more commercially. Nothings perfect, but it does make a fairly good job of it IMO.

    My own flock sits at the top of the Charollais rankings, with around 2/3 of the top 100 ram lambs being my breeding over the last few years, yet my 'actual' figures are a way behind some of the flocks that are treated in a much more 'cossetted' way. Where progeny of my rams have been recorded in other flocks, either through AI or ram sales, with different management regimes, they have generally lived up to expectations and performed as BLUP has predicted. The Signet consultants commonly get complaints about some of my rams sitting at the top of the published reports, but with relatively low actual scan weights & muscle depths compared to some of those from better homes.

    I lamb a third of my flock in December and those lambs are housed on creep feed until after weaning and the grass has started to grow, and the rest lamb in the Spring and are turned out to grass (& no creep) within days. The two groups are recorded as separate contemporary groups, and their actual performance is obviously very different. The common genetics then allow a BLUP to do a comparison between the different groups and produce robust ebv's, despite their differing management. Having the 2 groups (& management) suits my farming system and limited labour, allows me to play with producing a few breeder's ram lambs, whilst still allowing me to see that my genetics perform on a grazing system (the management of which I might add, is some way behind the level that some of the kiwis achieve).

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Neilo would you be sourcing your stock rams from the same grass fed system and performance recorded its just I fear the charollais sheep breed is going down the same road as the suffolk and texel breeds and chasing the shows I know I seen a charollais ewe win interbreed champion at a show in n Ireland and there is no way she would breed naturally due to the amount of fat on here I wouldn't have give her champion for this reason she was a walking whale

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by shearer View Post
    Neilo would you be sourcing your stock rams from the same grass fed system and performance recorded its just I fear the charollais sheep breed is going down the same road as the suffolk and texel breeds and chasing the shows I know I seen a charollais ewe win interbreed champion at a show in n Ireland and there is no way she would breed naturally due to the amount of fat on here I wouldn't have give her champion for this reason she was a walking whale
    I source most of my stock rams from my own flock, with the use of AI and purchases to introduce new blood. I haven't managed to buy many rams that I would have enough confidence in to use heavily, preferring to use homebred sons of that new blood.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by posterpat View Post
    That performance was due mostly to hybrid vigour which is the reason that we cross-breed to produce prime lambs.
    Posterpat - doubt it was down to hybrid vigour as the Welsh and high index Texels were both producing F1 cross bred lambs over my ewes!!

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Curvebender View Post
    Posterpat - doubt it was down to hybrid vigour as the Welsh and high index Texels were both producing F1 cross bred lambs over my ewes!!
    Any sire is only as good as the ewes milk supply and the ground the ewes and lambs are kept on. Without milk and good grass you could buy the best sire in the world and you'd still end up with crap (that's an abstract point, not a comment on you!). In this case it seems the ewes were able to push the welsh sired lambs to their full potential and were maybe struggling slightly with the texels. Also, as Tim said, the tup is just a carrier of genes and the welsh tup (or his genes) might have been better than he looked and also again, you only get half the benefit of the supposed good tup in the lambs and likewise only half the penalty of the supposed bad tup.

    On the general subject, I think, if the aim is purely fat lamb production, a lot has to be considered before you spend big money on a supposed fancy tup, also I see any value of EBV's being in maternal and health traits rather than terminal sire traits, which generally can be seen anyway...Big meaty tups get big meaty lambs, whether it's off grass or otherwise is a separate issue, but if your lambs are well milked and away quickly without needing to eat much grass does it matter if the tup wasn't bred to grow on grass?.....

    And if we're going down the "grass is great" road, what sort of grass are we talking about? Super high sugar rye grass and white clover or Yorkshire fog and sheep's fescue...Are brassicas deemed acceptable? If so, why not beet pulp....then why not cereals? I'm sure you'll all say "buy a grass fed tup that has been bred for your situation" but remember, commercial fat lambs won't be the same breed as the sire (mostly) and if the jobs been done right should rarely need the ability to thrive on grass anyway. Look at the BFL or beltex , you often need to go to extremes in the sires (and dams) to get to where you need to be in the offspring. I don't see how you can go down the grass fed tup route for terminal sires without compromising growth rate potential in the offspring, as you can't measure it. Is it a defeatist mentality?The wrong solution to a self inflicted problem? Grass fed tups will always be smaller whether that potential is there or not. I am no fan of heavy fed tups, but at least you get to see what they're capable of, which is not (or at least shouldn't be) the case with the grass fed tup

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by mallarchy View Post
    Any sire is only as good as the ewes milk supply and the ground the ewes and lambs are kept on. Without milk and good grass you could buy the best sire in the world and you'd still end up with crap (that's an abstract point, not a comment on you!). In this case it seems the ewes were able to push the welsh sired lambs to their full potential and were maybe struggling slightly with the texels. Also, as Tim said, the tup is just a carrier of genes and the welsh tup (or his genes) might have been better than he looked and also again, you only get half the benefit of the supposed good tup in the lambs and likewise only half the penalty of the supposed bad tup.

    On the general subject, I think, if the aim is purely fat lamb production, a lot has to be considered before you spend big money on a supposed fancy tup, also I see any value of EBV's being in maternal and health traits rather than terminal sire traits, which generally can be seen anyway...Big meaty tups get big meaty lambs, whether it's off grass or otherwise is a separate issue, but if your lambs are well milked and away quickly without needing to eat much grass does it matter if the tup wasn't bred to grow on grass?.....

    And if we're going down the "grass is great" road, what sort of grass are we talking about? Super high sugar rye grass and white clover or Yorkshire fog and sheep's fescue...Are brassicas deemed acceptable? If so, why not beet pulp....then why not cereals? I'm sure you'll all say "buy a grass fed tup that has been bred for your situation" but remember, commercial fat lambs won't be the same breed as the sire (mostly) and if the jobs been done right should rarely need the ability to thrive on grass anyway. Look at the BFL or beltex , you often need to go to extremes in the sires (and dams) to get to where you need to be in the offspring. I don't see how you can go down the grass fed tup route for terminal sires without compromising growth rate potential in the offspring, as you can't measure it. Is it a defeatist mentality?The wrong solution to a self inflicted problem? Grass fed tups will always be smaller whether that potential is there or not. I am no fan of heavy fed tups, but at least you get to see what they're capable of, which is not (or at least shouldn't be) the case with the grass fed tup
    For the record the Texel lambs did really well, my ewes don't have a problem getting them to reach their genetic potential, my point was that I was surprised how well the Welsh lambs did in comparison in terms of liveweight gain. I would have expected them to have weaned 5-8kg lighter but in reality were only 2 or so kg lighter. This of course is liveweight, I would expect them to kill out/grade far worse and if we broke the carcasses down then meat to bone ratio would be far worse also, hence why Im sticking with my high index Texels but in future will be solely buying high index rams bred and reared to perform on forage.

    I agree, the tup is just a carrier of genes, again the point I was making was that his genes thrived on a grass/milk diet despite the rams unenviable phenotype.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by mallarchy View Post
    On the general subject, I think, if the aim is purely fat lamb production, a lot has to be considered before you spend big money on a supposed fancy tup, also I see any value of EBV's being in maternal and health traits rather than terminal sire traits, which generally can be seen anyway...Big meaty tups get big meaty lambs, whether it's off grass or otherwise is a separate issue, but if your lambs are well milked and away quickly without needing to eat much grass does it matter if the tup wasn't bred to grow on grass?.....

    And if we're going down the "grass is great" road, what sort of grass are we talking about? Super high sugar rye grass and white clover or Yorkshire fog and sheep's fescue...Are brassicas deemed acceptable? If so, why not beet pulp....then why not cereals? I'm sure you'll all say "buy a grass fed tup that has been bred for your situation" but remember, commercial fat lambs won't be the same breed as the sire (mostly) and if the jobs been done right should rarely need the ability to thrive on grass anyway. Look at the BFL or beltex , you often need to go to extremes in the sires (and dams) to get to where you need to be in the offspring. I don't see how you can go down the grass fed tup route for terminal sires without compromising growth rate potential in the offspring, as you can't measure it. Is it a defeatist mentality?The wrong solution to a self inflicted problem? Grass fed tups will always be smaller whether that potential is there or not. I am no fan of heavy fed tups, but at least you get to see what they're capable of, which is not (or at least shouldn't be) the case with the grass fed tup
    The only way you would get to see 'what they're capable of', is if you get to see them at slaughter weights. It really doesn't matter if a terminal sire ram makes a big shearling, in fact I'd say it is often goes hand in hand with late maturity & lambs lacking finish at slaughter weights without a very high plain of nutrition. Seeing a big, strong shearling just tells you that the progeny will grow to make big shearlings, it tells you nothing about them at slaughter weights of say 40-45kg. Likely it will have been fed well for it's whole life, in order to get to that size to top the auction sale.

    I have known rams that were 175kg show winning shearlings, whose progeny (over several recorded flocks) were shown to have very low growth rates to scan weights, and were narrow lambs lacking finish at those weights. His EBV's backed up & described that performance perfectly. I would suggest that the valuable terminal sire genetics are those of the 'curvebenders', that grow like the clappers and then slow down and mature at a relatively early age. These cannot be identified by taking a snapshot at the feeding competition that is a ram sale.

    I would point out that this is a separate argument to that of the shortening of productive life & fitness to do their job, associated with heavy feeding.

    EBV's are by no means perfect, but they are the best tool we have at the moment. They attempt to separate the performance gained from genetics, and those from feeding & management. They are a useful selection tool, but one that should always be used alongside your stockman's eye, IMO.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilO View Post
    The only way you would get to see 'what they're capable of', is if you get to see them at slaughter weights. It really doesn't matter if a terminal sire ram makes a big shearling, in fact I'd say it is often goes hand in hand with late maturity & lambs lacking finish at slaughter weights without a very high plain of nutrition. Seeing a big, strong shearling just tells you that the progeny will grow to make big shearlings, it tells you nothing about them at slaughter weights of say 40-45kg. Likely it will have been fed well for it's whole life, in order to get to that size to top the auction sale.

    I have known rams that were 175kg show winning shearlings, whose progeny (over several recorded flocks) were shown to have very low growth rates to scan weights, and were narrow lambs lacking finish at those weights. His EBV's backed up & described that performance perfectly. I would suggest that the valuable terminal sire genetics are those of the 'curvebenders', that grow like the clappers and then slow down and mature at a relatively early age. These cannot be identified by taking a snapshot at the feeding competition that is a ram sale.

    I would point out that this is a separate argument to that of the shortening of productive life & fitness to do their job, associated with heavy feeding.

    EBV's are by no means perfect, but they are the best tool we have at the moment. They attempt to separate the performance gained from genetics, and those from feeding & management. They are a useful selection tool, but one that should always be used alongside your stockman's eye, IMO.

    There's no disputing the life shortening point and as I said, I'm no fan of heavy fed tups but even comparing tups as lambs "on grass" you're just seeing and comparing the mother's milking ability rather than growth rate potential, which is of no consequence to a fat lamb sire

    (Just seen this) No body said bigger is always better, the market is for a 20kg carcase, and I never mentioned choosing tups as shearlings rather than lambs. But in the absence of limiting factors (and that is the crucial point) bigger tups tend to produce greater growth rates in the lambs. How far you want push that depends on your circumstances and what carcase size you want to produce. If you've found a way to bend curves then all well and good

  29. #29
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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Curvebender View Post
    This makes sense - a few years back a tiny and very ugly Welsh mountain ram broke in with my ewes for a day or so and I was dreading seeing the lambs. However I was amazed how well they performed/weighed on grass alone compared to the lambs from some of my high index texel rams. I was expecting the lambs to be significantly smaller/poorer at weaning but they were only a Kg or two lighter and fit for slaughter.
    I was expecting the same thing from some small shetland x kerry ewes I bought. I put them back to a kerry for 3/4 lambs and there was little to no size difference between them and the pure kerry lambs by weaning time, although the shetland lambs seemed to get off to a much quicker start.

    Interestingly I think my management was a 'step down' for these ewes though, they seem well used to the sight of a bucket and have had nothing since they got here a couple of years ago! They were on a good new ley for lambing because a neighbour had some going, but other than that it's just old, unfertilised grass.

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    Re: Breeding rams

    Quote Originally Posted by Curvebender View Post
    For the record the Texel lambs did really well, my ewes don't have a problem getting them to reach their genetic potential, my point was that I was surprised how well the Welsh lambs did in comparison in terms of liveweight gain. I would have expected them to have weaned 5-8kg lighter but in reality were only 2 or so kg lighter. This of course is liveweight, I would expect them to kill out/grade far worse and if we broke the carcasses down then meat to bone ratio would be far worse also, hence why Im sticking with my high index Texels but in future will be solely buying high index rams bred and reared to perform on forage.

    I agree, the tup is just a carrier of genes, again the point I was making was that his genes thrived on a grass/milk diet despite the rams unenviable phenotype.
    Firstly, I'm not trying to cast any aspersions on you or your sheep, but how can you be sure the sheep are keeping up with the texel lambs? If the singles grow faster than the twins then obviously they're not (with the twins at least). If your right and the high index texel's growth rate are little better than a "bad" example of a mountain breed, what does that say?

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