Record prices achieved at virtual ram sales

Monday, 4 September 2023

During the summer, we launched some new estimated breeding values (EBVs) for sheep farmers. To explain what these were and how useful they could be, we hit the road to talk to farmers about them at a series of workshops.

Farmers attending the workshops heard how careful ram selection can easily lift the value of lambs by £3–£5 a head, which would be worth an extra £1,000 over a ram’s working lifetime.

Virtual ram sales

To reinforce this message and create a bit of competition between farmers, each event hosted a virtual ram sale, whereby teams of attendees bid against one another for the most valuable ram.

As with any sale, the rams with the best genetics were in keen demand, with tactical bidding used to secure the most profitable sires. In this training scenario, farmers were often happy to invest an extra £500–£750 to secure the best sires.

After the bidding closed, we talked about the relative profitability of each sire and the importance of ram longevity. Real data was used to highlight how any investment in genetics must go hand-in-hand with securing a fertile and functionally correct sire to optimise the buyer’s return on investment over his working lifetime.

Farmers enjoyed the events and told us that it had helped them to think about the traits that are important for their flock as they approach the ram buying season; these will vary depending on ewe breed, lamb finishing system and the end market. They also relished the opportunity to talk to other farmers about the information presented in ram sale catalogues, enabling them to learn from the experiences of others who are already using EBVs to select breeding stock. 

Breeding, selling and buying

As ram buyers look across the country, it is clear the industry is changing. Ram breeders are looking at new ways to promote their stock, such as via social media, and new ways to market their stock either directly off farm or by using online selling platforms.

Some breeders and breeding companies are placing a greater emphasis on rearing rams under more commercial conditions to enhance ram longevity. Underpinning all these changes to ram production systems is the requirement for an independent assessment of genetic merit, ensuring ram buyers can obtain the most profitable sires for their flock.

Estimated breeding values

Estimated breeding values (EBVs) provide a measure of the breeding potential of an animal for a specific trait.

We recently produced new EBVs for four important carcase traits derived from abattoir data:

  • Days to slaughter
  • Carcase weight
  • Conformation
  • Fat class

These new EBVs are routinely calculated as part of the National Terminal Sire Evaluation, run by AHDB’s Signet Breeding Services, and were developed using data collected as part of the commercial progeny test, RamCompare.

For more information about EBVs and RamCompare, visit the Signet website or get in touch with Sam Boon.

Image of staff member Sam Boon

Sam Boon

Senior Animal Breeding Manager (Signet)

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