What do you look for in a breeding ram?

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by kesoaps, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,108
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2004
    Location:
    Washington State
    Since it's breeding season, I figured we could discuss what we look for in a breeding ram or replacement ram.

    Up until this year, I haven't spent much time contemplating what I want. A ram had been provided free of charge to cover the girls, and since the lambs the first year turned out to have decent fleece, I just used him again the following year. Last year I bought an icelandic ram based on looks and high odds of multiple births from his daughters.

    This year I've got the two new Friesian rams. I'm really anal about what an animal looks like as far as structure goes; I made Deb go out and stack her little lambs so I could get a decent look at their profiles, front and back. :p I want something that's well balanced, not overly cow hocked or over at the knees; something that will hold up over time.

    Because my rams are lambs, I've got nothing to go on as to how they'll produce, but over the next couple of years I'll want to keep not only the nicely balanced sheep, but the ones that are producing milk (since that will be my focus.) In other words, if the daugthers are good milk producers, then the brothers would be marked for replacement rams.

    Since I really like a triple purpose sheep, a good weight gain on the offspring and decent fleece would have to considered as well.

    What are you looking for?
     
  2. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

    Messages:
    52,806
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2006
    Location:
    Eastern North Carolina
    For my Dorpers I look for good size and build, as well as color and markings. I prefer them to be a twin or a triplet. Also their shedding, but that wont apply to you

    Generally its what you stated..one that LOOKS good. Also make sure both testicles are full size and descended.
     

  3. elgordo

    elgordo Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    230
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Location:
    oregon
    I agree that looks do count. (I also agree Bearfootfarm how they shed is important - I raise Katahdins)
    One point I look for if I can is temprament. I never trust ANY ram but I think it's important if you can breed for an even temprament and a less aggressive stance toward humans.
     
  4. GrannyCarol

    GrannyCarol Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,477
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern WA
    I don't even have sheep - yet! - but I know that I'd want a good temperament and I am looking for milk, then meat, then fleece. Agreed that he needs to look good - if he is going to sire my next generation, he ought to be an exceptional beast, not just average. Health and vigor and easy keeping ought to be considered too. hmmm... His bloodlines - was his mother milky with a good udder? Are his sisters?

    I do know the more different things you want to choose for, the harder (geometrically) it is to find them in one individual. I think I'm going to need to have sheep for a bit before I would even consider getting my own ram. I may be stuck with whatever the local sheep farmers have (not even sure what breed it is! basic white sheep for meat and wool, I think). If that is the case, it's unlikely I'd keep any offspring, but just raise them for meat. However I think I will be able to find something fairly local - at least if I get Icelandics, they ought to fit in my large dog crate in the back of my minivan for transportation! :)

    ~ Carol
     
  5. ONThorsegirl

    ONThorsegirl Fergusons Family Farm

    Messages:
    1,326
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern Ontario
    For me, I do look at the same things many of yous look at.

    I look at Conformation:
    Legs are a big thing, if this ram is going to get up to 300lbs, his legs better be able to take that weight. They should be strong, and formed correctly, and another big thing is the feet! VERY CORRECT FEET.

    A Ram is only as good as his feet and legs.

    I also look at build, and shape. We raise for meat so the ram should be thick and have a good weight gain, I normally like to look at his offspring and see living proof of this rams capabilities.

    A Big thing of mine is the animals head, whether its a horse, a cow, or a sheep. I like to make sure they have suitible, heads, ok I know suitable, that what they were given so there for it suits them but I like pretty heads, masculin looking but not overly big-relates to birthing problems for the babies, and not to feminine -this is a ram we are refering to.

    Melissa

    Thats just my 2 cents!
     
  6. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

    Messages:
    52,806
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2006
    Location:
    Eastern North Carolina
    One way to make sure youre getting a good Ram is to buy registered animals. With Dorpers they can be Percentage Dorpers, so a good breeding Ram should be at least 75% Dorper. They cost a little more but are worth the investment if youre serious about improving your flocks. Also, having registered sheep will allow you to sell breeding stock for about 2 times the value of a "meat" lamb" I mangaged to sell all my ewes from last year as breeders before they were even weaned, and could have sold more had I had them.
     
  7. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    4,649
    Joined:
    May 3, 2004
    Location:
    Hill Country, Texas
    Buy or raise the absolute best ram you can afford. Remember his genetics quickly dominate the herd. He is 50% of every lamb you have and if used in subsequent breedings the percentage goes UP.
     
  8. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,108
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2004
    Location:
    Washington State
    Yucca, I was going to bring up the 50% of the flock...always a good point to remember.

    Bearfoot, registration doesn't always mean quality, unfortunately. I've seen some pretty sorry looking icelandics that were registered, and some pretty drop dead pretty ones that weren't. Plus, in my situation, it's not papers or even purebred that gets the job done. It's milk production, nice fleece and good carcass...you can get the last two with registered stock, but pretty derned impossible with the milk aspect.

    As the ram matures, obviously his prolificness will be a major factor as well.
     
  9. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

    Messages:
    8,280
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    Now in Virginia
    When I was raising sheep....the first thing I looked at in a Ram is...

    Temperament & Temperament.......It was very important to me for Rams to be safe around the farm and they can be. Ram must be able to also pass on a good easy to handle temperament to the lambs.
    2nd & 3rd is good sound conformation, being hardy and good fleece.

    Seen too many people badly hurt by a badly bred/tempermented Ram. There is no need to have such animals.
     
  10. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    15,981
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Michigan's thumb
    Since I have a spinning flock, I want a good fleece. Sound conformation is vital, as is a calm personality. I'm culling my ram this year. He's a good ram, but I can really only breed him to three of my ewes. If I can't give him away or sell him, I'm afraid he's going into the freezer. I hate to do it, but I really don't want him breeding his sister and daughters.
     
  11. ShortSheep

    ShortSheep Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    360
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2004
    Location:
    Illinois
    First, I would rule out any DQ's for the breed standard. No skeletal deformities, overbite/underbite/wry teeth, testes must be two and symetrical, nice topline, fleece not overly coarse. Ram must be naturally healthy and thrifty.
    Secondly, I look for good leg structure, soft fleece w/ wave or crimp, proper fluked tail (shetlands), wide hips, attractive head. And since I'm breeding for polled, I take into account the amount of depression around the scur base in the skull, width of scur base, and length of scur.
    To me, the value of a breeding sheep is in the offspring. Nice rams can still throw junk (same with ewes). I'm big on test breedings over a small number of ewes at first, let him earn a bigger breeding group next fall by proving that he can throw good lambs.
     
  12. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

    Messages:
    3,236
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2005
    Location:
    Kansas
    Well, we just started in sheep a year ago, but first and foremost for us since we're breeding for show lambs is the breed standard. No DQ's. But also, a ram can throw a nice baby with some ewes and not with others. We need a ram that balances out what the ewes lack. So.....we actually have 2 rams this year since some of our ewes are very tall, but need length while others are very long but lack heigth.
    Second, since our breed Hamps tend to single a lot, a ram out of twins is a huge plus. Triplets would be even better.
    Since Hamps have large lambs and have a lot of trouble lambing their first year out, a ram with shoulders that are smooth and narrower than the hips is a need.
    Other than that, my daughter and I just look for pretty! :)