‘Achieving high performance will be difficult without the right genetics’

With a host of breeding sales set to take place over the coming weeks, attention will quickly turn to buying in replacement rams for the upcoming breeding season.

A host of ram sales are due to take place up and down the country, albeit under strict protocols and social distancing measures, like what has been happening at marts over the last few months.

Also Read: Sheep management: The importance of buying in replacement rams early

To find out more about what farmers should be looking for when buying a ram, AgriLand spoke to Kevin McDermott of Sheep Ireland.

He said: “Sheep farmers work hard all year to try to maximise the performance and welfare of their flock.

“At this time of year, most flocks have weaned or are about to wean their lambs.

“The focus, for most farmers, is now on finishing lambs as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.

“Health and nutrition have a significant impact on the performance of lambs.

Therefore, if either of these is below par, flock performance will suffer. Despite the importance of health and nutrition, achieving high performance will be difficult without the right genetics.

“The rams you introduce to your flock this year could mean the difference in having an average flock performance and a high flock performance for the next few years.

“Rams with poor genetics for lambing difficulty, survival and growth rate are going to result in reduced performance of the flock, or create more work for you to try and make up the difference with even better management. Luckily, there is now a way to avoid those rams.”

How to find your next ram?

When selecting a ram this summer, Kevin said farmers should consider the following points.

These include:

  • Timing: Getting out to breeding sales early means you have the pick of the crop. It also gives you sufficient time to quarantine the ram and give him time to transition to your farm’s conditions;
  • Physical attributes: Check that the ram you are buying is physically correct. Any physical defaults such as bad feet could be passed on to their lambs and could also impact the ram’s ability to mate with ewes later in the year;
  • EuroStars (genetic information): EuroStars are freely available on thousands of ram lambs all over Ireland. The EuroStars give you an indication as to how that ram will perform in your flock.

Kevin added: “If you intend to improve your flock’s performance and to reduce the number of “tail end” lambs next year, using a team of four and five-star rams this summer is an excellent first step.”