BROOKINGS, S.D. – The results of the 2022-2023 Dakota Performance Ram Test are now available online for sheep producers.
A collaborative effort between SDSU Extension and North Dakota State University, The Dakota Ram Test is conducted at the NDSU Hettinger Research and Extension Center. It evaluates wool and carcass quality, and is one of two remaining centralized performance tests for commercial, whiteface rams in the nation.
In a centralized test, researchers can collect data on young rams from varying locations managed on the same ration and under the same environmental conditions. Jaelyn Whaley, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist, said the sheep producers can use that data to manage their own herds.
"Centralized performance testing allows producers to gain valuable information on their rams that assists in making genetic decisions to help improve their flocks,” said Whaley.
The 2022-2023 ram test included 70 rams from three breeds and 20 producers, tested from September to March. Overall, the average daily gain across all rams was 0.83 lb. per day, which Whaley said was in the target rate of gain.
The top 30% of Rambouillet rams eligible for certificates of merit were from Flying O Sheep Co. and Erk Brothers in Newell, South Dakota; Chapman Rambouillet, in Bison, South Dakota; and Schalesky Livestock in Faith, South Dakota. Three Columbia rams were eligible for certificates of merit from Blackman Columbia in Wolf Creek, Montana; Doug Hitch in Hobson, Montana; and Heidi Klick in Simms, Montana. Certificates of merit mean the rams met their breed association’s requirements on a number of breed traits, from wool and carcass to physical features, and are considered elite for their breed.
A concern among whiteface sheep producers is the potential for rams to develop angular limb deformities, which causes the front legs of the rams to bow as they grow. Using ram test data, the University of Idaho has linked three genetic markers to the potential for rams to develop limb abnormalities. Rams that carry any one of these three genes is five times as likely to develop angular limb deformities when rapidly growing and gaining weight.
For more information, contact Jaelyn Whaley, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist; or Christopher Schauer, Director of the NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center, at email@example.com or 701-567-4323.