Radio interview source: Mike Neary, Extension Sheep Specialist, Purdue University
Improving genetics is key for the long-term success of a sheep flock.
Mike Neary is an extension sheep specialist at Purdue University. He says when choosing good breeding stock, make sure the animals are healthy and sound.
"If they're older animals and they've had lambs before, you want to check their udder to make sure it's sound, and make sure there's not some injury or health problem there that will impact their ability to milk in the next lambing season," says Neary. "Check their feet and legs to make sure they're sound, and not have some structural problem, or have a limping problem. You want to check their mouth to make sure their teeth match their gums, and they have adequate size to their teeth that they can eat correctly."
The breeding decisions you make also depend on your goals for the operation. Pure-breeding is the mating of rams and ewes of the same breed. It's recommended that the pairs have no closer relationship than at least four-to-six generations.
Inbreeding of closely related animals may be done to stabilize important traits. But, only highly-qualified individuals should use this method because it can result in sheep with lower performance.
Neary says for most producers of meat and wool, crossing breeds for the qualities of each will improve the flock.
"It'll increase fertility, it'll increase lambing percentages, it'll increase liveability, it will increase growth rate. There's just a lot of good to be had by utilizing a crossbreeding system."
Visit The American Sheep Industry Association for more information on raising sheep
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