Evaluation pays off for producers

Sheep producers are finding new ways to put dollars in their pockets with some help from Virginia Tech’s Southwest Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Mandy and Chris Fletcher, of Abingdon, Virginia, have purchased rams from the ram test sale for the past four years and have improved their flock’s genetics by selecting for growth and parasite resistance. As their flock’s genetics have improved, the Fletchers have seen a decrease in health care costs and flock mortality.

Mandy and Chris Fletcher, of Abingdon, Virginia, have purchased rams from the ram test sale for the past four years and have improved their flock’s genetics by selecting for growth and parasite resistance. As their flock’s genetics have improved, the Fletchers have seen a decrease in health care costs and flock mortality.

The center, located in Glade Spring, is home to the Southwest Virginia Forage-Based Ram Test. The ram test, now in its fifth year, is the only program in the U.S. that evaluates rams through a forage-based performance test designed specifically to quantify growth and parasite resistance. The test provides a mechanism for ram lambs to be evaluated and compared to rams from other flocks in a standardized environment. At the conclusion of the test, the ram lambs that are offered for sale come with a vast body of production data.

“Internal parasites are among the leading health concerns for sheep,” said Scott Greiner, Virginia Cooperative Extension sheep specialist and professor of animal and poultry sciences. “They can pose dramatic economic losses for many producers, especially those in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the U.S. where forage-based production is an ideal management system for livestock.”

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