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Achieving desired production targets in a sheep breeding enterprise is assisted by developing a breeding program that utilises genetic and reproduction knowledge and technologies.
The objective of a breeding program is to ensure that the desirable genes that have been selected for are transferred from one generation to the next.
Genetics defines the production potential of a sheep. Using the best available genetics allows producers to potentially improve the sheep's contribution to enterprise profit. Important profit drivers that relate to animal performance, such as growth rate, are influenced by the 'genetic makeup' of the flock.
When selecting sheep for an enterprise, producers should focus on what they are trying to achieve. This may be defined in the business goals and target market specifications that were identified during the business planning process and reflected in the enterprise's breeding objectives.
Selecting the right sheep is the first step in improving the genetics of a flock, however, genetic improvement is not a quick fix and must be pursued over generations of livestock.
Reproduction is an important factor affecting the economics and profitability of sheep enterprises. It forms the basis of genetic flock improvement, transferring genes from one generation to the next, and is central to weaning more lambs.
Considerations in sheep breeding programs include:
- Ram management - Rams able to sire a large number of viable offspring in each mating season.
- Ewe management - Ewes able to conceive and rear lambs to weaning each season following puberty.
- Ewe lamb and maiden ewe management - Ewe lambs are managed so that the maiden ewe is able to be successfully joined.
- Weaner management - Maximum survival rates and growing weaner sheep out to growth targets.
- Predation management - Lambs and adult sheep are protected from predation.
- Health and reproductive diseases - Health and welfare of the flock to maximise growth and reproductive rates.