As pastures begin to improve after some solid Autumn rainfall in many areas, Local Land Services livestock officer, Dr Sue Street, believes it is important sheep and beef producers do their homework before buying rams and bulls to help rebuild flocks and herds.
Dr Street's article Buying bulls and rams: Check the five Ts tells us genetics is an important aspect to consider when buying in sires.
Genetic improvement is a major factor contributing to the profitability of production systems for livestock.
Breeding and selection have resulted in significant economic gains in beef, lamb, wool and milk production (NSW DPI).
Estimated Breeding Values (EBV), or Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV), are selection tools available to help you choose the right genetics for your flock/herd.
These values provide an indication of the potential breeding values of different animals.
In the absence of EBVs and/or ASBVs, some simple questions and an understanding of how to interpret measurements can help with the selection of the best sires.
When buying in sires, if possible try and view or get someone you trust to view the animal such as the Australian Cattle Veterinarians, who have a Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation scheme, and for sheep, your sheep classer would be a great person to do this.
Visual assessment will be difficult due to the current restrictions, but it is important so you can visually assess the animal and get what you payed for.
The best aspects to look for are conformation and we can do this by doing the five Ts.
The five Ts are as follows:
- Teeth - can he eat? What is his age? Broken mouthed animals or those with poorly aligned teeth should be culled as they will be less able to eat sufficient feed to maintain weight
- Toes - can he walk properly? Are his hooves overgrown? Does he track properly? Is there any swelling? Having sound sires is essential for optimal performance.
- Torso - are they in good condition? If not, do you have enough time to get condition on them before joining? BCS 3.5 is the optimal body condition score for joining.
- Tossle - Check the prepuce for swelling or for any abnormal discharge. The penis can also be extruded and checked for scabs, ulcers or deviations.
- Testicles - Are they uniform in size? Optimum is 28cm for rams and 35cm for bulls (NSW DPI). Are there two? Check to make sure there are no lumps or bumps on the testicles or on the epididymis. The testicles should be firm, resilient to touch, free moving and uniform.