Selecting Rams - using Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs)

When selecting rams for a commercial enterprise the first step is to set your breeding objective. Spend a few minutes to write down precisely what you are aiming for, including the levels of performance and by when you want to achieve it. Find more information on setting a breeding objective.

Because the most effective way to select for a trait or characteristic is to directly measure or assess that characteristic, you should buy rams from a stud that objectively measures or collects scores (using a standardized system) for the traits you wish to improve.

For instance, staple strength can be selected with much higher accuracy if the stud directly measures staple strength on its rams, rather than just having the ASBV calculated from related measurements such as fibre diameter coefficient of variation.

However, the ram’s own performance is only part of the picture. What you see in the ram isn’t necessarily what you will get in the progeny because much of the ram’s performance is a result of the ‘environment’.

Nutritional differences between animals are a key environmental element and not only come from what they eat, but whether they were born or reared as a twin or their mother was a maiden ewe—giving them less nutrition during pregnancy and lactation than for a single lamb and/or from a mature ewe.

Also, climate, disease and management differences will affect how they perform.

If you know these environmental factors for each individual, and if you have been able to inspect all of the animal’s relatives and see their performance data, you’d be able to predict very accurately, how the progeny will look and perform.

However, this is not practical for you to do, so studs that provide you with Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) already have this information taken into account. DNA, Pedigree information, management groups, data from relatives and relationships to rams used in the stud and elsewhere are all accounted for and very important when calculating Australian Sheep Breeding Values.

Importantly, you can accurately compare rams from different studs (whether at opposite sides of the country or having had quite different management) if they both provide ASBVs for the same trait.


How do you incorporate ASBVs with your visual selection?

Choosing your stud(s).

The last decade has seen great changes in the information some studs offer and ram buyers have become more discerning. Gone are the days of believing that a ram simply throws back to the average of the stud, as more detailed analysis has shown that there is considerable variation across rams within a stud.

Comparing rams from different studs is easy and accurate when they have ASBVs because the differences associated with nutrition and management have been removed.

  1. Choose one or more studs that have the type of sheep you are after and which provide ASBVs directly measured on the traits you consider are important to your production system.
  2. If the stud you are using does not currently provide ASBVs, ask them to do so. An increasing number of studs are now providing ASBVs because their clients have requested them.
  3. Ask for the ASBV data to be sent to you in advance—more studs are now providing this in sale catalogues and on the web (including links to their animals in LAMBPLAN and MERINOSELECT ). This is particularly useful to compare studs at the start of the sale season, allowing you to review the rams on offer from each to see whether one stud has more rams that suit you or whether there are individual rams you would like to inspect.
  4. Use to compare and rank rams across different studs or within your chosen stud.
  5. If the rams you are interested in are not appearing on, ask the stud to list them.
  6. Based on your review of sale information, choose the stud sales you will attend.


Choosing individual rams

Visual selection is still an important part of selection—particularly for wool sheep—because there are still traits of importance that are not available for selection using ASBVs.

  1. Choose the minimum level or range of ASBVs (or an index) that you will accept for each trait that is important to you.
  • For instance, you may choose a fibre diameter ASBV range between –1.0 and –2.0 microns, so as to keep your flock’s fibre diameter in the fine-medium range. On top of that you might want worm resistance and are willing to take animals that are simply “better than the average for all Merinos”. This is about –3% for WEC ASBVs.
  • Be realistic in the levels you set and the price you may need to pay, as many others will also want the higher performing rams.
  • Rams with lesser performance can be just as profitable for you providing you pay a correspondingly lower price, as the ram’s costs should also be included in your cost of production; likewise the best animals may not be the best value if they are too high a price. Use to rank rams according to your breeding objective.

2. Use the ranked list from to assist you on sale day. This way, you can then spend your time at the sale more thoroughly visually assessing the rams, instead of wasting time on poorer performing animals.

3. On sale day, follow your ranked list and visually assess only the selected individuals. Avoid viewing poorer performing animals, so you are not influenced by those that look good, despite their poor performance.


Practical Wisdom Notes / Fact Sheets

PW4.1 New Opportunities in Genetics and Genomics

Products & Training Resources

ASBV Pocket Guide

Australian Sheep Breeding Values - A guide for ram buyers

Marketing your sheep with genetic data

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Getting Started with Sheep Genetics

Sheep CRC Genomics Breakfast Workshop - LambEx 2012

News Releases

Ram team recording drives improvements for Kangaroo Island flock
Keeping detailed and accurate ram team records has driven a flock transformation for Kangaroo Island Merino breeder Keith Bolto and proved why the new features offered on the RamSelect Plus app are a winner for commercial producers. About a decade ago the Bolto family began selecting rams for use in their flock, based on objective measurement information, and about five years ago began performance recording their own rams... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Tech-savvy students drive Farrer High to the top of RamSelect
Listing their catalogue via the RamSelect Plus app has showcased the value of early adoption of new breeding technologies and opened new markets for the students at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School. Based in Tamworth NSW, the school’s agriculture subject offering includes a Year 9 and 10 ‘animal management course’, in which students take on the tasks associated with running the Farrer White Suffolk stud. Click Here To Read Full Article »
DNA Flock Profiler responds to producers needs
Breaking down a perception-driven market with objective genetic data was the impetus for sheep breeders Andrew and Barbara Read to conceive an idea which has now been realised in the form of the Sheep CRC’s DNA Flock Profile test. The Reads, from "Oak Hills", Nangus, NSW, first approached Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe two years ago at a producer field day with the idea of developing a DNA test to profile the genetic... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Sheep researchers star on international stage
The next generation of red meat researchers are being inspired by the success of the sheep industry’s stable of young scientists who are starring on the world stage. Five Murdoch University scientists were recently chosen to deliver oral presentations, all linked to research they are conducting through the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), at the recent International Symposium on Energy... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Breeding for flystrike resistance to be made easier
Genetic research into the heritability of flystrike susceptibility in sheep, and its expression in different operating environments, is set to be incorporated into new tools to assist breeders make more informed selection and flock management decisions. Tracie Bird-Gardiner, from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, has spent the last four years collecting and analysing data from fly-struck sheep in the industry’s... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Commercial Merino producers - opportunity for DNA pilot project
Commercial Merino producers have the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of DNA research by participating in a pilot trial of the new Flock Profiling Test from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC). The Sheep CRC will provide support for up to 100 Merino producers to define the genetic merit of their flocks. The profiling test involves randomly sampling 20 young ewes for DNA testing. Click Here To Read Full Article »
Understanding why farmers are pressing the app buttons
Despite the proliferation of new technology in agriculture, very little is known about the effectiveness of these new tools in improving primary productivity and adoption of new practices. A new research project from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will evaluate the use of smartphone apps in the industry and producer attitudes towards these tools, in order to ensure future tools and... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Ram team records unlock the secrets to better breeding
Keeping accurate records of his ram teams has allowed South Gippsland second-cross lamb producer Paul O’Sullivan to benchmark his business against industry averages and to refine his genetic selections to take flock productivity to the next level. Mr O’Sullivan was impressed by the benchmarking capabilities of the new RamSelect Plus app when it was launched at LambEx by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Sheep breeders rush to RamSelect Plus
Sheep breeders are embracing RamSelect Plus in droves, with close to 4000 rams from 60 different studs listed on the site since the start of July. And there are already over twice the number of registered users than there were at the end of the 2015 ram-selling season. Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the early-season figures were a strong endorsement of the need for easy-to-use applications that provide personalised... Click Here To Read Full Article »
UNE app development team leads the way for the sheep industry
The team behind the popular web-based app RamSelect Plus is already turning its attention to finding new solutions to the data challenges facing the sheep industry. The next project on the cards for the University of New England (UNE) Agile App team is to develop an early intervention sheep management app for the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) so that producers can ensure all animals in... Click Here To Read Full Article »
Click Here To Read More News Articles »

Web Sites

Website Created by WrightWay Design