There is always room for improvement in any production system and the small stock industry is no exception. It is therefore important for all breeders to be aware of the current level of performance in their herd to be able to set goals and monitor any changes. Performance recording and analyses thereof are excellent selection- and management aids to increase profitability of farming through the identification of more efficient, high producing animals. Recordings of births and pedigrees, as well as meaningful performance recordings are essential to estimate genetic potential and select genetically superior animals for continuous improvement. Information collected through performance testing is stored on a central database and used for analyses, both to summarise measurements and estimate genetic merit. This data can be used to monitor production systems and accomplish breeding objectives.
It is never too late to start, but when you do, make it a priority instead of simply an option. Incorporating recordings into your herd requires planning and dedication, but the benefits are invaluable. The first step to take is the identification of individual animals. An animal’s identity should never be changed. There is a standard method of identification, which is as follows:
Reg. Stud nr + Birth year + Sequence nr = ID
5571 + 12 + 0123 = 5571120123
The final product of analyses of recordings is breeding (or genetic) values. There are three major sources of information required for breeding value estimation, which are measurements of the animal itself, measurements of the animal’s relatives and accurate pedigree records. Furthermore, the compilation of contemporary groups is important. A contemporary group is a group of animals that have been exposed to the same environmental factors. An animal’s performance is affected both by the environment and its genetic composition. If animals are compared within a group of animals that have been exposed to the same environmental effects, the assumption can be made that the variation is due to genetics. The estimation of breeding values is based on this concept. Environmental effects include effects such as season and nutrition, as well as biological “effects”/factors, such as:
Groups should consist of as many animals as possible, with the basic guideline of at least 5 animals of the same sex and birth status. Furthermore, animals within a group must be offspring of at least 2 different sires. Manage herds in such a way to help meet these criteria.
There are different stages of recording, which are:
Fertility is one of the most important aspects in livestock production. Data of lambings received from breeders is used to evaluate fertility traits, including ease of lambing. Birth/lamb information must be recorded as well as ease of lambing, stillbirths and abortions. Animals that lambed during the same season and received the same quality and type of feed must be compared within the same contemporary group. Birth notifications must be submitted within 30 days after birth but birth weight must be taken within 7 days after birth. Stud breeders send notifications in to SA Stud Book while commercial breeders make use of the 602 facility on Logix.
Pre-weaning weights (between 25 – 79 days of age)
Pre-weaning weights of lambs are needed to calculate growth rate and are important for the evaluation of mothering ability (including milk production) and efficiency of ewes.
Weaning weight (between 80 – 149 days of age)
Weaning weight is also needed to calculate the growth rate of lambs, mothering ability and efficiency of ewes. Weaning weight of lambs is largely influenced by the milk production of their dams. It is therefore important to determine this effect in order to estimate the true genetic growth potential of the animal itself. Weights of male and female lambs must be sent together. The date of weighing, and the growth and raising status of lambs must also be recorded. The weights of all the ewes’ lambs are added together to calculate a total weight weaned per ewe per production year. This measurement takes the quality of her lambs into account.
Post-wean weight: between 150 – 364 days
Mature weight: 365 days or more
These weights are required to calculate and evaluate post-wean growth and adaptability of young animals. Options for growth tests are Central Ram Growth Tests or On-farm Ram Growth Tests. However, these tests are not compulsory.
Central Ram Growth Tests (optional)
Animals are fed individually at central ram stations to determine feed conversion ratio (feed efficiency). Feed conversion ratio (FCR) is a trait that indicates the kg feed the animal consumed to gain 1kg body weight. The weights of the animals are therefore required to calculate growth.
On-farm Ram Growth Tests (optional)
Post-wean growth rate is calculated using weights of animals that were in a controlled environment on the farm of a member or a private institution.
Dorper 35 – 48 kg
Merino 35 – 50 kg
Meatmaster 30 – 45 kg
WOOL TEST PROCEDURES
Participation in Reproduction and Weaning phases is compulsory. The data that must be recorded in these phases includes lambing data (lamb number, birth date, sex, lambing status and ease of lambing, etc.) as well as weaning weights of all lambs. Participation in post-wean phases is compulsory for certain breeds. Breeders of other breeds choose at what age their herds will participate post-wean and what measurements to submit, e.g. post-wean weight, mature weight or both.
Participation in Logix Small Stock performance recording will be beneficial to both stud and commercial farmers. Reasons for participation at SA Stud Book include:
Animal recording requires good management, honesty and commitment but it is worth it. Remember, the main reason for participation in animal recording should not be “marketing advantage”. Use the information to make wise decisions. Know your herd; know your faults; know your strengths and use that knowledge to set goals and achieve greatness.