Top-indexing Katahdin ewe lamb
Champion Pelibüey ram
High-selling Katahdin ram
3/4 SAMM x 1/4 Rambouillet
Producing and selling sheep seedstock
Seedstock sales can greatly increase the income derived from
a sheep enterprise. Seedstock is another word for breeding stock,
animals whose role is to be parents and contribute genes to the
Seedstock may be purebred or crossbred, registered or unregistered,
rams or ewes. They may be of any breed or breed cross, so long
as there is a market for them. Some breeds and breed crosses will
have more ready markets. Demand will vary by geographic region
and segment of the sheep industry.
In the sheep industry, seedstock are produced by universities
and agricultural research stations, private companies, and individual
producers. Breeding stock tends to sell for higher (sometimes
much higher) prices than lambs for meat. At the same time, production
costs are higher (sometimes much higher).
Most of the genetic improvement in the sheep industry occurs
in the purebred flocks that produce seedstock. These should be
the "elite" flocks of their breed and the industry.
Selection should be for economically important traits. The traits
that are emphasized in a selection program will vary by breed
and the role the breed plays in the commercial sheep industry.
Economically important traits for commercial sheep production
Pounds of lamb weaned
Resistance to foot rot
Post weaning growth
Though more difficult to quantify, sheep sold for breeding should
be structural and reproductively sound. Rams should be held to
more stringent standards than ewes.
Breed registries play an important role in the production and
marketing of seedstock. Breed associations set the standards for
their breed, determine eligibility for registry, and advertise
their breed to the sheep industry and agricultural community.
Participation in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP)
is usually done through breed associations.
Higher standards of health
Sheep producers that sell breeding stock should strive for high
animal health standards. Biosecurity is of utmost importance. Closed
flocks are recommended. Seedstock producers may wish to enroll their
flocks in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program. It is common to genotype rams for scrapie resistance and is disclose this information to buyers.
It goes without saying that seedstock flocks should be free from
footrot, pinkeye, soremouth, caseous lymphanenditis, epididymitis,
and other contagious diseases. In the very least, the presence
of these diseases on a farm or in the past should be disclosed
to potential buyers. Ideally, the flock should be tested for OPP
(ovine progressive pneumonia). Johne's disease is another disease
that is becoming of increased importance.
Performance record keeping
Seedstock producers should keep detailed on-farm records. Birth
records should be recorded. Lambs should be weighed to determine
weaning weights and post-weaning rate-of-gain. Weights should
be adjusted for sex of lamb, type of birth and rearing, and age
of dam. Comparisons should be made among lambs in the same contemporary
group (same management and feeding regime).
Producers of terminal sire breeds (e.g. Suffolk, Hampshire, and
Texel) are encouraged to participate in central ram performance
tests. A central performance test is where rams from different
flocks are brought to one central location where performance is
The goal of a central performance test is to evaluate genetic
differences among animals. Any breed of ram can be consigned,
but the data collected is of less importance to the maternal breeds.
Maternal traits are much harder to evaluate.
The National Sheep Improvement Program
(NSIP) calculates across-flock EPD's for sheep flocks. EBV
stands for "expected breeding value." EBVs provide
an estimate of the genetic value of a animal as a parent. Lambs
with superior EBVs are predicted to produce offspring which have
superior performance as compared to the breed average.
Breeds that participate in NSIP include Columbia, Coopworth, Dorper,
Dorset, Hampshire, Katahdin, Rambouillet, Romney, Polypay, Suffolk,
Other countries have similar computerized performance record keeping
programs and sire referencing schemes.
Seedstock do not sell themselves. Some forms are advertising are
usually necessary. Signs at the entrance to the farm on on the
farm truck or trailer are a good start. Advertising in newspapers
and magazines should be considered. A web site is an excellent
way to promote breeding stock sales. There are many web sites
that list farms for free. Exhibiting sheep at shows, fairs, and
festivals is another way to promote breeding stock.
There is a growing export market for U.S. sheep genetics. United
States Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE) is a national
not-for-profit trade association that facilitates the export of
cattle, swine, sheep, and goats to other countries.
There is a lot of paperwork associated with export sales. Animal
health is the most important aspect. Each country has requirements
pertaining to the importation of live animals, semen, and embryos.
Due to disease issues, some countries requirements are more stringent
Diseases of concern for export include scrapie, bluetongue, foot-and-mouth
disease, and brucellosis. Due to diseases issues, semen and embryos
have greater potential for export, as they present limited disease
risk. Scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad
cow" disease) are the greatest barriers to international
<== SHEEP 201 INDEX