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Choosing traits when selecting rams

10 September 2020

When selecting the right ram to meet breeding goals, it’s important for producers to consider what opportunities and challenges are being faced on-farm. Producers can then utilise different traits that will influence the production system when selecting rams.

To assist producers in understanding how to select animals using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs), MLA has developed a suite of brand new videos that explain some of the most popular sheep traits.

The different ASBVs available are important to understand as they can help improve specific areas of a flock including their health and welfare, reproduction success, eating quality, weight and wool.

ASBVs focus on the genetic merit of the animal, removing the impacts of the environment in which the animal was raised. Combining the use of ASBVs and visual appraisal, producers can ensure the ram purchased will deliver the right genetics for many generations to come.

The table below highlights some of the on-farm challenges, types of breeding goals and ASBV selection traits covered by the videos on MLA’s genetics hub, and steps through the benefits of introducing these into a flock to meet a breeding goals.

The on-farm business challenges or opportunities

The type of breeding goals

Available EBV selection traits

Link to video

Animal health and welfare traits - traits can help with social and environmental challenges with livestock production

High risk worm burden Improved worm resistance
  • WEC - Worm egg count
View the video
Flystrike in the breech region of sheep

Reduce risk of fly strike

  • BCOV - Breech cover
  • BWR - Breech wrinkle
  • DAG
Moving to a non-mulesed flock Reduce wrinkle around the breech
  • BWR - Breech wrinkle
Moving to a polled flock Reduce wrinkle around the breech
  • Reduce the percentage of progeny with horns
Dystocia Reduce incidence of dystocia
  • LE-DIR – Lambing ease direct (terminal)
  • LE-DTR – Lambing ease of daughters (self-replacing flock)

Reproduction traits - traits can help improve the reproductive performance of yearling and adult ewes

Low weaning percentage Improve weaning percentage in adult ewes
  • NLW – Number of lambs weaned
View the video
Low scanning percentage Improved scanning percentage
  • NLB - Number of lambs born
Join yearling ewes Improve scanning percentage and weaning percentage in yearling ewes
  • YNLB – Yearling number of lambs born
  • YNLW – Yearling number of lambs weaned

Carcase and eating quality traits - traits that are important for producing quality lamb to meet market specifications

Lambs are too lean at slaughter

Increase fat cover

  • FAT - Fat depth
View the video

Meeting carcase compliance

Improve muscling

  • EMD – Eye muscle depth
  • DRESS – Dressing percentage
  • LMY – Lean meat yield

Meeting consumer expectations

Improving eating quality

  • IMF – Intramuscular fat
  • SF5 – Shear force

Weight traits - traits used in sheep production to improve growth or control birthweight and mature ewe size

Turning lambs off earlier

Improve weight for age

  • WWT - Weaning weight
  • PWT – Post weaning weight
  • MWWT – Maternal weaning weight
View the video

Ewes are too big

Balance growth with mature ewe size

  • AWT - Adult weight

Lambs are too big at birth

Balance birth weight

  • BWT - Birth weight

Visual/wool traits - traits to help improve the quantity and quality of wool produced

Increase wool cut

Improved fleece weight

  • GFW – Greasy fleece weight
  • CFW – Clean fleece weigh

View the video

Manage fibre diameter

Maintain fibre diameter

  • FD - Fibre diameter

Maximising price premiums for wool clip

Increase staple strength

  • SS - Staple strength

Maximising price premiums for wool clip

Improve wool quality

  • CURV – Curvature

  • FDCV – Fibre diameter coefficient of variation

Move to six-month shearing

Increase staple length

  • SL - Staple length

Managing visual wool quality

Improve colour and crimp

  • COL – Wool colour

  • CHAR – Wool character

View the video

Managing visual wool quality

Reduce incidence weathering and fleece rot

  • WTH – Weathering

  • FROT – Fleece rot