Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for our newly imported rams

by Secretary on February 10, 2011

By Lisa Rodenfels, Jared Lloyd and Kristen Barndt

If you would like to see EBV charts on some of the latest imported UK rams, please go to the IMPORTED RAMS page (under BREED INFO, and BFL RAMS). Links to the EBV charts for most of the 2010 imported sires are at the bottom of each ram’s entry.

A few EBV insights

EBV data is simply a tool to help you make choices for your flock and your needs. Use the data to select for what you need. It may depend on whether you are eating the lamb (lean at higher weights) or trying to raise the sheep and want an easy keeping ewe.

If you are selecting a ram for breeding replacements, you may want to choose a ram that has a moderate fat level. If you are selecting a terminal sire, then the one with low fat might be better.

For instance, since most Hill breeds put on fat easily and early, you may want to select a ram with┬ámoderate fat numbers to produce your Mules so that the Mule wethers don’t get too fat at too young an age, and so that his Mule daughters get a moderate amount of fat cover.

It is likely that shepherds in colder climates may want higher fat numbers than would shepherds in more moderate climates, or in flocks that are managed more closely – fed grain and have access to a barn in winter.

Everything in moderation, and select for what you want and need. Another example is the Suffolk lines that are used for club lambs, which have been selected for very low fat depth. These lines excel at staying very lean no matter how old the lambs get, and how fast or slowly they are grown out. However, the ewes need to be fed very well, or they don’t do well. This type of ewe would never do well on a farm with minimal input, grazing native Kentucky 31 pastures year round.

We’ll want to be cautious about how much muscling we develop on our BFLs – balancing that with milking ability. Think about the carcass qualities of the dairy goat and cow and you can see how milk production and carcass quality are diametrically opposed. So these two traits must be balanced to keep from going too far to one side or the other.

In the context of balancing carcass and dairy characteristics, the Longwool Index Project and the Sire Reference Scheme (SRS) programs were developed in the UK with this concern in mind. The progressive UK breeders we are now working with are enrolled in these programs. Our progressive US flockmasters will be able to take advantage of the rams these programs are producing. See links below for information on the SRS and Longwool Index.

For the most part, you’d like to see all of the graphs in an EBV chart leaning to the right (positive values), except possibly for fat and muscle depth, depending on what decisions you are making.

EBVs: only one part of the whole picture

EBVs should be only one tool in your selection and planning. Seeing an animal, looking at conformation, general health and vitality, fleece quality, and seeing how the animal moves are all immensely important. An EBV chart by itself can’t show you foot quality and health, fleece characteristics, a less-than-excellent bite, testicle size, temperament and many other important attributes.

Info to help further your understanding of EBVs

Basic understanding of EBVs

Go to this link for Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (UK) basic explanation of EBVs.

Go to this link for NSIP basic explanation of EBVs.

Go to this link for an NSIP presentation on EBVs.

Presentations at Ohio Sheep Day 2010: Breeding Sheep for a More Profitable Flock

Key Presenters at Ohio Sheep Day 2010 included Dr. David Thomas from the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Kreg Leymaster from the US Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, and Dr. David Notter from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Go to this link, and then click on the individual presentations to view:

Presentations at Ohio Sheep Day 2010

Basics of Sheep Breeding for Commercial Flocks, by Dr. David Thomas
Building a Ewe Flock, by Dr. Kreg Leymaster
Selection and Crossbreeding Systems for Dairy Sheep, by Dr. Thomas
Selecting Your Next Terminal Sire Ram, by Dr. David Notter

All of these presentation are in MS PowerPoint. If you do not have PowerPoint, you may download MS PowerPoint Viewer for free; go to this link to download it.

Longwool Index info

Introductory 2004 article from Hybu Cig Cymru, New Longwool Index a Boost to Welsh Breeders (PDF)

Informative Hybu Cig Cymru PDF file on Practical Sheep Breeding explains EBVs, breeding in a stratified sheep industry, and the Index programs, including the Longwool Index.

Sire Reference Scheme (SRS) info

Sheep Sire Referencing Schemes (PDF) article by G. Simm and N.R. Wray, The Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh

Older Bluefaced Leicester Sire Reference Scheme brochure (PDF) from Signet with graphics

Further reading

Go to this link for an excellent article at Farmer’s Weekly Interactive (UK):
EBVs are icing on the cake, by Jeremy Hunt
Select rams based on both good conformation and positive traits seen during a visual inspection, as well as their “figures” (EBVs)

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