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Northern NSW ram sale season - information for ram buyers
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Northern NSW ram sale season edition

Welcome to our Northern NSW ram selling season edition of our e-News! This information was distributed in Spring for the Spring ram selling season, so we thought that it would be useful to distribute it for those who will be venturing to the New England to purchase some rams this ram selling season. 

With the northern NSW ram selling season kicking off, there is much to do in readiness for buying in new rams. First up working out how many you need, is important, and using the opportunity to review those that you have on hand, and cull any that may not be suitable going forward. 
Taking some time to review the performance of your flock, and if the animals that you are introducing to your flock are producing progeny that are meeting your objectives.
Then, working out your budget, and strategy for selecting animals is important.
Some producers obtain the ram sale catalogue well ahead of time and if they are using ASBV’s prefer to short list animals that meet their breeding objective.
Those who do not use ASBV’s will select their rams based on the measurements provided in the catalogue, and how they compare with the stud’s offering, and flock performance.
 
There are many tools available to producers, and it is at times difficult to fully utilise all of the tools to their fullest. This Sheep Connect NSW e-newsletter draws together some of the tools and information available to help make this process a little smoother and save some time. 
Most people have their own way of going about selecting a short list of rams to bid on at auction, or group to select from if buying privately. 
Use your trusted advisor to assist you in understanding how to make the most of these tools, to make your selections work for your operation. The impact that excellent choices will have on your business can be high, as can the negative impact of a less than excellent choice – that’s why we need to make the most of these important purchases. 

Luke Stephen, Technical Specialist, Sheep Breeding, NSW DPI, Armidale provides some excellent insight into the selection process, using both visual selection and ASBVs.

With ram selling season upon us now is a great time to revist the key points in ram selection.
1.Have a SMART objective of what you want to achieve. Too often the question do you have a plan for your sheep is met by blank stares or indecisive responses. A Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic & Time bound objective helps set you on the path to increasing productivity and profitability. An example of a SMART objective may be “I want to increase clean fleece weight by 5% in the next two years
2.Know where you are starting from: knowing the production levels and potential of your ram team is crucial in knowing where to go next. Tools like Ramselect plus now allow you to keep an updated list of the rams you have purchased. This is a great initiative as ASBVs change over time so having the most up to date info can help influence your breeding decisions
3.Have a clear list of rams that you want to look at before arriving for inspection: The ram sellers job is to provide enough rams to suit the varying objectives of his clients. So not every ram that is there is going to be for your objective. Spending the time to go through the catalogue and identify the rams for your objectives will save you valuable time when arriving to a sale or inspection
4.Take the time to inspect each ram thoroughly. This is probably the most key point in this article. Using objective data is a great way to identifying the rams that have the production potential to make you money. However these rams have to meet your assessment. The four Ts are very important when visually inspecting rams: Teeth Testicle Tossle and Toes. There are publications such as the visual scores guide and the guide to classing merino sheep that can add value here.
The final key point in ram selection is to have a plan and be willing to stick to it. The most outstanding performing sheep that doesn’t meet your assessment visually is not the ram for you. On the flip side of this the same is true. The most outstanding looking rams with poor production potential is not the ram for you. As most rams are sold in the open market you are not always going to get the rams for you every time, but it is important to set a ceiling of which production levels you are willing to go to and not go below that. The only way that you are going to stay ahead in your sheep enterprise is to make increases in profit annually that are more than the rise in cost of production.

Luke can be contacted at luke.stephen@dpi.nsw.gov.au 
There are many tools and methods used by producers to select the right rams for their operation. Knowing how to best utilise the tools available will help you make the best decisions for your own situation.
Your breeding objective is an important step in this process - and it should be remembered that these are specific to your own situation. 

Visual assessment of rams


The physical structure of rams determines how well he will withstand a career in your flock – some structural faults lead to early retirement (breakdown) of rams, which can be costly, but also progeny that exhibit those faults, which are not desirable to your breeding objective. Whilst it is important to have animals that have profit driving attributes that match your objective, they must be structurally sound if you are to realise the true value of the ram in your flock into the future.
Some attributes are related to other problems that may occur in your flock, such as lambing difficulty, (shoulders) and flystrike (shoulders and back).
Visual assessment of wool and other key attributes is important in ensuring that the rams suit your climate, and enterprise style. 
It goes without saying that there are some faults that no matter how good a ram looks, or how great its figures are, structurally he is not suitable and should not be purchased for use in your flock.
If you are after some information on visual assessment scoring method,  the visual sheep scores booklet, outlines visual attributes in a fashion that is easy to understand. Also, ask your sheep classer, for some assistance in this area if you require clarification.
 

Use this tool to revise on the finer points of structure, visual attributes, classing animals and visual assessment of merinos. click here

Using ASBVs to aid selection of rams


ASBVs (and Indexes) are the units of measurement LAMBPLAN, MERINOSELECT and KIDPLAN use to analyse animals.
Australian Sheep Breeding Values are an estimate of an animal’s true breeding value based on pedigree and performance recorded information.
They are essentially a projection of how that animal’s progeny will perform for a range of traits.
Selecting animals involves balancing several key traits. To make selection easier traits can be combined into a selection index. A selection index combines ASBVs for several traits to give a single value. This reflects the performance of the sheep relative to the breeding objective of the particular index. ( NOTE - An index will not be useful to your selection process, unless your breeding objective matches up with the particular index).
For some producers, understanding how to use ASBVs can be a yearly headache – as it is something many people use only at this time. Your ram breeder will be able to help you understand how to use the figures, and there may also be someone at the sale, that the ram breeder has asked along to help answer your specific questions on the day. If not, there are some courses available to help you upskill in this area. 
 
More information on how to understand ASBVs and Indexes can be found here :

For those who are buying in maternal, dohne or terminal rams, visit the sheep genetics website for information applicable to your breed and operation.


 
 

RamSelect Plus


RamSelect Plus is a web-based app designed to assist producers refine their search for animals that have breeding values that match their breeding objective. The app allows you to short list animals that are within your parameters, so that you can then apply further selection through visual assessment when you get to the breeder’s property.
A new feature of the app is the benchmarking tool that allows you to track your ram team performance over time, and compare with the national averages for animals in the database.
Ramselect is mobile friendly and can easily be used on a phone or ipad.
 
How it works
Set your breed – identify the breed and studs that you want to search for sale rams. Select a standard industry index or saved breeding objective as a starting point.
Use the slider bars to change emphasis on traits important to your business.
The app then ranks the rams according to your breeding objective.
You are able to print or save a ranked list of animals that fit within your parameters – then you can visually inspect these animals prior to purchase. 
For more information on RamSelect Plus, visit the website
 

Benchmarking your bloodline


Many ram breeders and their commercial clients are benchmarking via a range of methods, including:

  • participating in wether trials
  • sire evaluation trials
  • the show ring
  • using breeding values
The 2016 Merino Bloodline Performance results are now available. 
The relative performance of commonly used Merino bloodlines has been updated with the 2016 analysis of 25 wether trials and one ewe productivity trial conducted across Australia between 2006 and 2016. This analysis removes the differences in environment between years in a trial and between trials.  
Bloodlines represented by multiple teams (both within and across trials) provide the necessary linkage to account for environmental variation between trials and across years within a trial to be accounted for leaving only the genetic differences between bloodlines. Click here to access the merino bloodlines website. Merino Bloodline Performance highlights the diversity in wool production, wool quality and profitability in a wide range of bloodlines and allows woolgrowers to compare the strengths and weaknesses of each bloodline in relation to the breeding objective of their own flock.

Sire Evaluation 

Ram breeders benchmark their genetics through The Australian Merino Sire Evaluation Association (AMSEA). AMSEA is a not-for-profit organisation that oversees Merino Sire Evaluation across a range of sites located throughout Australia. These sites provide unique opportunities for ram breeders to compare genetic performance of individual rams with those from other ram breeding flocks. One of the benefits of being involved in these evaluations is that they provide linkage between flocks that are using Sheep Genetics. 

AMSEA collates, analyses and publishes data from all sire evaluation sites to form the national publication Merino Superior Sires. AMSEA is also the governing body that determines the requirements for how each site is operated.

Merino Sire Evaluation commenced in Australia in 1989 and since then, has been at the forefront of genetic progress in the Merino industry. Through its innovative programs of benchmarking sires for both measured and visual performance, AMSEA has driven genetic gain by providing ram breeders access to the latest information and results that promote profitability.

AMSEA is the organisation that is delivering the multi-million dollar Merino Lifetime Productivity Project, funded by Australian Wool Innovation, to the industry between 2015 and 2024.

Click here to access the AMSEA website, with their latest results. 

Making more from sheep has a  module called Gain from Genetics. 
Click here to access this page. 
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