The science of buying rams is exactly that. A science. For too long our industry has had people hide behind a cloak of mystery when it comes to selecting rams. Smoke & Mirrors. The amazing ability to predict the future, without any ACTUAL science to inform that prediction.
Well now we are in the 21st century, and we have the tools to put the power of ram selection into the hands of the producer. Estimated breeding values, or in the case of sheep, Australian Sheep Breeding Values, are the science to help everyone make informed predictions of animal performance.
Before the haters come after me and tell me that you can't breed an animal just on figures.... no sh#t! Of course you can't. You have to have both visual assessment and ASBV's together to breed or select well structured, well balanced, high performance rams.
When you buy a ram you are buying two things. A bag of genes and a delivery unit. The ASBV's tell you the most about the genes, and the visual assessment tells you mostly about the delivery unit. One is of little use without the other.
Over the last few weeks, and over the next few as well, we work with clients to assist them to select rams. Here are our tips.
- First you must know what you are trying to achieve, and then match the rams to that. Start by writing your enterprise or breeding objective down, and make it a SMART objective. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. Then you can match your rams to that objective
- Always get your catalogue well before sale day.
- Use a percentile band table to tell you where an individual ram sits nationally in terms of performance (ASBVs). A ram might be the best in the sale, but does that still mean he is any good?
- Do your homework before you turn up on sale day. We will always work through a catalogue, shortlisting rams based on the figures that match the breeding/enterprise objective. That way on sale day, we don't waste time looking at rams that don't match our objectives.
- Buy from studs where you don't have to worry about structure. In my opinion if you are kicking out rams because of serious structural faults, then turn around and walk out. The stud isn't doing their job.
- Don't just look at an index. Indexes are simply the headline in the newspaper. They can be misleading. You have to read the rest of the article. An index can be easily influenced by a single trait. I have watched people buy entirely the wrong ram for their type of ewes because they have based selection entirely on an index.
It's time to embrace the science of ram selection and drive the performance of your enterprise with the right genetics. Take ram selection into your own hands, or make sure you are getting the right assistance.
But don't forget, genetics alone will achieve little. You need the rocket fuel pastures to allow them to express their potential.
Note: When recommending studs, or individual rams Achieve Ag Solutions accepts no commissions, and is not influenced in any way in the information delivered. All advice is entirely independent, and designed only to serve the client.