Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

€uro-star rating can breed success in your flock

Tommy Boland

Tommy Boland

It's somewhat of a truism, but the ram is half the flock. Some 50pc of the genes in your lamb will come from the ewe, and 50pc from the ram.

If we want to change the make-up of our lambs, the quickest way to do it is to change the ram used for breeding.

The type of ram is driven by a number of factors, including the target market, whether we are purchasing replacements or breeding ewe lambs, the production system and whether the lambs will be based in the hills or lowlands.

The first question we need to answer is, what breed will we select, and secondly, what individuals will we select?

The answers can be based on varied criteria, some of which can be fairly arbitrary, such as tradition, past experience, availability and perception surrounding a particular breed.

There is probably as much variation within a breed as there is between breeds.

Selecting within a breed can be based on visual assessment, the experience of a particular breeder and the pedigree of an individual ram.

A further tool now available is the Sheep Ireland €uro-star rating.

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At the moment, sheep are ranked within breeds on a scale of between one and five. If an animal receives a one-star rating, it is within the bottom 20pc of animals tested within that breed. If an animal receives a five-star rating, it is within the top 20pc.

Now, sheep value is a fairly meaningless measurement taken on its own, but when the various sub-indices are included, it makes more sense.

Overall sheep value is a combination of a number sub-indices.

The sub-indices are: production index -- measure of the genetic merit of a sheep for terminal traits; maternal index -- measure of genetic merit of a sheep for maternal traits; and lambing index -- measure of genetic merit of a sheep for lambing traits.

These indices are calculated as follows:


1. Individual on-farm weights (The weight at birth, 40 days old and at weaning).

2. Days to slaughter.

3. Ultrasound muscle and fat scanning.


1. Lambing ease.

2. Weaning weight.

3. Ultrasound muscle and fat scanning.

4. Lambing survival.


1. Lambing ease.

2. Lambing survival.

Other key traits include lamb survival, which is calculated from data recorded on farms, and days to slaughter, which is predicted from 40-day weights, weaning weights and scanning weights.

As this scheme is still relatively new, issues still persist over the accuracy and reliability of these pioneering rankings, but they certainly provide a very useful additional tool to assist in selecting your rams.

Indo Farming