Raising Breeding Rams

I raise Dorper sheep for meat and breeding stock. I currently have three ram lambs that I have been feeding and watching to see if they will make breeding stock quality rams.

The first evaluation of culling ram lambs from being breeding stock is they have to be fullblood Dorper registered rams. I do not retain any percentage Dorper ram lambs for consideration as breeding rams.

July 2022 Lambs

The next easy evaluation is correct legs. If the lamb does not start out with correct legs, it will not improve as the lamb grows. I want the legs straight and with some width between them. Lambs who have straight hind legs or post legs are sent to the sell pen.

My next focus is on the top line. I want a really nice top line, no dips at the shoulders and a strong loin. I also want width in the hips.

When a ram makes it to the prospect ram lamb pen, it becomes a grow and wait process. During this phase of the evaluation, I will weigh the ram lambs and record their weight and daily weight gain. Dorper sheep are a fast growth sheep, so the breeding rams need to have a good growth rate during the maturation time.

The ram lambs can change a lot. They go through different growth rates. Last month I decided one of the ram lambs was not going to make it as a breeding ram. This individual was not growing as rapidly as the others, and I thought some faults were starting to develop. I would butcher this lamb.

Today, going out to evaluate the prospect rams, first look, I mixed up two of the rams, the smaller one was now taller and just as wide as the other. Maybe I will not butcher that ram.

With studying and talking to others I have learned a sheep farmer has to wait and watch before making a judgement on if a sheep is breeding stock or market lamb. According to the Dorper Sheep breed inspectors and the breed standard, a Dorper sheep can not be inspected or typed until the ram or ewe is over a year old. Majority of breeding stock breeders do not determine if a ram lamb is going to make a breeding ram until they are at least 10 months old. Two of the ram lambs are eight months old, the third is was born in April 2022.

The third is definitely going to be a breeding ram, his conformation to date is really good, and he is as big as the other two rams even though he is four months younger. My plans for this young ram lamb is to show him in a Dorper show in April 2023.

I am not one for patience. I like to look and be able to make a decision and move forward. Raising sheep I have to have patience for them to grow. Grow as lambs in the womb, grow to be old enough to wean, and grow to determine if they will be classified as breeding stock or market.

Watching these young rams grow and mature, I have learned that maybe in the past, I gave up on ram lambs that might have made breeding stock.


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