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​​​Ram Testing Program

The program is administered by the PA Department of Agriculture in cooperation with Penn State's Department of Dairy and Animal Science, the Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Grower's Association, and state breed associations.

Program objectives:

    • to provide a genetically sound testing program that would allow both large and small sheep producers to participate;
    • to promote performance testing of sheep in Pennsylvania and acquaint producers with its overall value;
    • to provide a common test for evaluating rate of gain, structural soundness, muscularity, condition, and estimated carcass merit; and
    • to provide an opportunity for purebred breeders and commercial producers to purchase performance-tested rams, which have been evaluated in part under similar, unbiased, environmental conditions.

The testing facility houses up to 200 Rams in 5 pens for a 77-day feeding period.  Rations are self fed after a warm-up period and contain approximately 1000 lbs. Oats, 500 lbs Corn, 250 lbs. Linseed meal, 190 lbs. Soybean meal, 50 lbs. Wheat middlings, and 26 lbs. Minerals and vitamins.

Consignments to the Testing Program

All rams consigned to the program must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be out of a registered sire and dam or registered with their national breed association.
  • Senior rams must be born between September 1st  and November 30th of the previous year.  Junior rams must be born between December 1st  and February 28th  of the current year.
    • The breeds of sheep will be divided into groups:
        • Cheviot, Southdown, Tunis
        • Dorset, Montadale, Oxford, Shropshire, Polypay
        • Hampshire, Suffolk
        • Columbia, Corriedale
        • Hair Sheep
        • ​Crossbreds, Merino, Rambouillet
    • To be eligible for test, a ram should have an adjusted 50-day weight ratio of 100 or higher.
    • Minimum weight per day of age (depending on ratio) will be .50 to .55 lbs./day for breeds in groups A and D & E, .60 to .65 lbs./day for group B, and .70 to .75 lbs./day for group C & F.
    • All rams must score at least 12, (scale of 1 to 17) for conformation at time of delivery.
    • All rams must meet health requirements as outlined in the nomination form.

Why should I Consign Rams?

Performance testing of rams provides the seedstock producer important information about their own genetic improvement program, as well as making a comparison with other breeders.  The advantages of performance testing include:

    • Rams are tested and fed in one environment with, similar management, so differences in performance are more likely to be genetic.
    • ​Complete performance information is provided.
    • Progress in genetic improvement can be tracked over succeeding generations.
    • Interim and final reports provide good advertisements to other breeders and the general public.
    • Rams accepted for sale are offered to a larger pool of prospective buyers.

Performance-Tested Ram Sale

An index ratio will be used to rank rams at the conclusion of the test for sale eligibility.  Each breed will sell separately.  Approximately the top 75% within any breed and/or breed group will sell.  Some of the information available for the buyers and sellers of the rams includes:

    • breeder's name and address
    • sire and dam
    • birth type
    • test average daily gain
    • weight/day of age
    • fat thickness
    • shoulder height
    • loineye area
    • scrotal circumference

Why should I Buy Performance-Tested Rams?
The information generated in a performance-testing program for rams provides valuable selection tools to increase productivity and profitability for a sheep flock.  The selection of potential sires in the sheep flock is one of the most important management decisions that are made.

Recent Survey
A recent survey among buyers of rams at the Pennsylvania Ram Test sale has indicated the value of using performance-tested rams.  Nearly one-third of the respondents indicated there was at least a 20% improvement in production with these rams, and over half of these sheep breeders said there was at least a 5% increase.  Individual results may vary, but information generated in a performance-testing program has great value in making selection decisions that are so vital to profitability.