Role of the Ram

It may seem obvious, but there’s no single animal more important to your flock than your ram. Afterall, your ram is half of your lambcrop each year. Half the genetic makeup of each lamb comes from its sire. So, use a good ram and you’ll be happy with your lambs, you’ll have some nice females to keep as replacements, and he’ll more than likely pay for himself in short order. But, buy a not-so-good ram and your lambs may not grow so well, may suffer from worms, and you may struggle to find a daughter worth keeping.

Using the right ram for your flock is the fastest way to improve your lambcrop and ultimately your bottom line. Do your homework and find the ram that complements your ewes and helps accomplish your objectives. Understanding what makes a ewe stand out in your flock is essential. Do you know which are your best ewes and why?? The majority of the ewes in an average flock are good at just one or two traits. For example, they may be excellent mothers, but lack parasite resistance. Her lambs shed their coats beautifully, but she has too many triplets or too many singles. We work to identify the strengths of our individual ewes, then select rams with complementary traits. For example, matching a ewe that’s an excellent mother, but whose lambs are below average weight at weaning and may require deworming to a ram that was in the top 10% in growth to weaning and has demonstrated strong parasite resistance. Then it’s a matter of selecting which lambs inherited the best traits from both dam and sire.

There is a tendency, especially among new sheep owners to select for things that have little or no economic value, but effect the appearance of the animal. Things such as coat color or a straight topline have tremendous eye appeal. However, successfully marketing lambs in the northeast, and elsewhere, has more to do with weaning weights and average daily gain of lambs plus lambing and weaning percentages of their mothers and much less to do with coat color or number of blue ribbons won at the county fair. The right ram can help with all of these things, whether economically important or not. But, when you understand the role of the ram and what you want in your lambs, you can rapidly make great strides at genetic improvement.