Breeding choices – Does it pay to keep five-star rams?

The use of five-star rams leads to increased lambs sales and profitability on sheep farms, according to Sheep Ireland’s Eamon Wall.

Speaking at a recent Teagasc Better Sheep Farm walk in Co. Wexford, Wall said that a ewe flock consisting of 100 five-star ewes will produce 13 more lambs than a similar one-star flock.

Along with an increase in lamb sales, he said that five-star ewes will have a lower mature weight and the lamb mortality on farms will also lower.

Looking at the terminal traits, the progeny of five-star terminal rams will also be easier lambed, have higher growth rates and will also be 1kg heavier at the time of weaning, he said.

Source: Sheep Ireland
Source: Sheep Ireland

Wall also said that the Euro-star indexes were created as a guide to farmers to provide them with additional information when selection rams for their flocks.

Speaking at a recent Teagasc Better Sheep Farm walk in Co. Wexford, he said that one of the main aims of the indexes where to identify the economic differences between the top and bottom sheep present in each breed.

Sheep Ireland's Eamon Wall speaking at the farm walk
Sheep Ireland’s Eamon Wall speaking at the farm walk

“Every breed has its merits, but within breed there is massive variation. The indexes boil down to the top and bottom end of each breed,” he said.

Benefits of using five-star rams:
  • Reduced lamb mortality
  • reduced lambing difficulty
  • Larger litter sizes
  • Smaller ewes
  • Heavier lambs

Breeding policy key to profitable sheep farming

Teagasc’s Frank Hynes also spoke at the farm walk and he highlighted the importance of having a breeding programme in place on sheep farms.

Hynes said that the majority of Irish sheep farms have no breeding policy and are putting very little emphasis on maternal traits when they select flock replacements.

Hynes said a breeding policy is key to improving the profitability on a sheep farms as selecting more maternal ewes will give rise to extra lamb sales.

Farmers should also consider their options when purchasing rams, he said and they need to identify whether the progeny will be for slaughter of breeding.