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Redden: Terminal sire rams increase producer profits

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Rams have the largest influence on flock genetics. 

Although the ram provides 50 percent of the genetics in the first cross, by the fourth generation, he is influencing over 90 percent of the genetics in the flock, according to a North Dakota sheep specialist. If a stockman can purchase the best rams he can afford, the influence of the rams can add to production and profitability, Reid Redden said. 

Redden discussed ram selection during a recent webinar, “How much is the ram worth?”

“The shepherd’s philosophy is rams are worth about three market lambs or six feeder lambs,” Redden explained. 

In today’s market, that would be between $300 and $500. 

“Before producers purchase a ram, I would encourage them to look at their current lamb crop, analyze their weaning weight and do some planning and goal setting,” he said. “Determine what type of genetics are needed in the future to be most productive and spend more money on the ram to improve the flock.”


Redden explained that there are two types of sires. 

Maternal sires are typically the white face breeds that producers purchase if they want to retain replacements. 

Terminal sires are usually black face sires that are used to produce crossbred lambs. Redden said crossbred lambs are a sought after commodity by feeders because they are typically healthier, have a 10 percent or higher rate of gain than their white face counterparts and produce better carcasses, which all comes from the hybrid vigor bred into the lambs. 

“When producers are looking for a terminal sire, they are looking at the commercially important traits of the ram,” Redden explained. 

Producers need to determine if the ram has the capability of servicing 50 ewes, or if it is closer to 25. They will also need to consider genetics for libido, if they are considering out of season breeding, and vigor, longevity, temperament, age of the ram and scrotal circumference. 

Commercial traits

“Producers will also want to look at what commercial traits that ram can pass along to its offspring,” Redden said. 

Ideally, rams that can produce lambs with a good rate of growth, including above average weaning weights and post weaning weights, would be more desirable. The goal is to produce carcasses that yield in the two to three range, where premiums are paid. Ideally, these lambs need not only a good yield grade, but a larger ribeye area and 0.10 to 0.20 backfat.

In some markets, skin color and wool type can also be important, Redden continued. 

Black pigmentation on pelts may be discounted, and a fee may be charged to dispose of hair and hair-cross pelts. In some pelt markets, pelts with black pigment around the face may also be discounted. 


Producers can estimate the improvements they will receive by crossbreeding with genetically superior sires by testing the ram against others on their farms, Redden said. 

By keeping good performance records, producers can analyze weaning weight, post-weaning weight, ribeye area and fat depth. Other ways to estimate improvements are by establishing an estimated breeding value for the ram and developing an index, which measures how well he did compared to the contemporary group. 

If this information isn’t available from breeders when purchasing a ram, Redden said most producers in the industry will still purchase a ram based on his size. 

By being choosy and selecting a superior terminal sire ram, Redden said producers may be able to earn as much as $2,250 on their investment. 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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