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Ram performance test for sheep breeders soon to start

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HETTINGER—Sheep producers will soon be allowed to bring their rams to the North Dakota State University's Hettinger Research Extension Center to assess their performance for use in breeding programs.

"It's nothing that's new down here, it's something we do every year," Dr. Christopher Schauer, director of the extension center, said in a phone interview. "It really targets one or two breeds of sheep for pure breed sheep producers. What type of traits will they pass on to their offspring? It helps them choose the best sires for their herd. So it's guys who raise purebred sheep and the results of this test aid them."

The test will run from Sept. 18 through March of next year, with producers invited to bring their rams to the center between Sept. 4 and Sept. 17. There's a $250 fee, which is due upon delivery. That fee covers the cost of feed, management, veterinary attention and wool testing. If the rams have not been DNA tested there will be an additional $16 cost per animal. The rams will be shorn twice during the test and the wool will be sold to help cover the shearing costs.

"(This test) is designed for wool breeds," Schauer said. "It attracts producers from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and on the Columbia Sheep side we get sheep all the way from Oregon."

Columbia and Rambouillet sheep are the two primary breeds that the tests would examine, and the field day would give breeders of those sheep "an opportunity to access some of the top genetics in the country" for those breeds, Schauer said in the press release detailing the event.

All rams will be vaccinated against enterotoxemia and sore mouth as well as being drenched for internal parasites. Producers are encouraged to indicate on their entry form if their rams have already been vaccinated and/or drenched. Each animal must have a federal identification tag in one of its ears and that tag information must be listed in the animal's health papers.

The rams will undergo their first shearing between Sept. 18-25 and they will be weighed six times during a 140-day growth test period. Producers will receive information on measurements, average daily gain, rib-eye area and fat thickness for each ram. The second shearing will be in February and the wool will be analyzed then.

All of this builds up to the field day and sale that will be held at the Hettinger center on March 7, 2018, beginning at 9 a.m.