With the challenging rise in compound prices the latest SAC booklet
‘Ram management and Purchase’ highlights cost benefits of using forage
based diets for rams.
Author Dr. John Vipond says "Rams have improved serving ability
from forage feeding, and together with selection based on EBVs, can
increase returns by up to £8 per lamb".
Commercial farmers are happy when rams last 3-4 years. But too many
die or have to be culled early because of infertility or feet and leg
problems. To leave a return they must stay alive and mate successfully,
producing vigorous lambs that survive and express their improved
Trials suggests that around 20% of rams needed to be culled
prematurely, and there have been concerns for many years that breeding
rams are being presented over-fed, which may be limiting their breeding
This is a response to strong market signals – buyers prefer the
biggest rams. However it is important to consider the consequences for
Over-feeding reduces the numbers of years a ram lives and the
number of ewes he mates per year. It can mask genetic merit for traits
such as grazing ability and parasite resistance and cause welfare issues
due to joint and kidney problems.
For these reasons we are encouraging both breeders and buyers to
reconsider how rams are reared. Fundamentally, over-feeding can make
sheep production less efficient, as more cereals are fed and more rams
are needed. It is simple - rams that have been reared mainly off forage
are likely to be fitter, more fertile and live longer and with the
current cereal price less costly to produce. So there are wins for both
seller and buyer from fighting the wrong market signals, using rations
for rams in the booklet ‘Ram Management and Purchase’ as a guide.
Download the Booklet
Ram Management and Purchase by John Vipond