Ram production from forage diets

Project number:        73203

Lead contractor:        ADAS UK Ltd

Partners:                      Signet, Texel, Suffolk and Charollais Breed Societies

Start & end date:       01 February 2011 – 31 October 2011

 

The Problem:

One important reason that producers don’t invest in rams with superior EBVs is that many rams (recorded and non-recorded) are overfed prior to sale. Feeding high levels of concentrates has an impact on the animal’s physiological system, including the liver, joints and testicles.  These rams have a short working life and are not a cost effective investment.

A review by Prof. John Robinson has identified feeding rams high concentrate diets as a major cause of liver abscesses, over heating (poor fertility and libido), low bone density and poor mobility.   However, limited guidance is available on how to rear rams off forage.  It can be predicted that good grass and forage management could meet most of the demands for the average shearling ram producer.

 

Project Aims:

  • To survey pedigree producers about their feeding management and performance (both concentrate and forage diets)
  • To estimate the cost of the feeding systems
  • To understand the nutritional requirements of ram lambs and shearlings for a range of breeds
  • To develop a blueprint for forage-fed ram lambs and shearlings
  • To identify case studies and gather performance data wherever possible

 

Approach:

EBLEX and Signet will develop a survey with Will Haresign from IBERS and Ann McLaren from SAC.  A consultant with good sheep nutrition knowledge will be commissioned to calculate the nutritional requirements of ram lambs and shearlings for a range of breeds with different growth rates, and will compare with current feeding regimes from the survey.  Blueprints for shearling and ram lamb systems will be developed – the aim would be to increase the amount of forage within the diet without significantly affecting performance.

 

Results:

This project led to production of Fit For Purpose Rams – A blueprint for breeders.  This uses results from the survey, the ADAS nutrition work plus text from John Vipond of SAC and Sam Boon of Signet.  See http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/returns/Better-returns-sheep.aspx

 

Planned activity:

A two-pronged campaign has been developed targeting breeders with the Fit for Purpose message while producers are targeted with the Five Tonne Tup message.  All based around the idea of over-fed rams are not what the industry needs.