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Visual Appraisal Checklist for Sheep Breeding
Sheep breeding starts with good genes and focused care. Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or select a lamb from an existing flock, it’s important to know what veteran sheep breeders look for during a visual assessment. Visual evaluation is very complex, and varies depending on a long list of factors. It requires extensive, hands-on experience and high attention to detail, as well as excellent sheep care ethics to learn exactly how to evaluate a sheep or ram for breeding. However, there are 15 general aspects of visual assessment for sheep breeding. These include udder, testicles, mouth, teeth, wool, legs and feet, hooves, soundness, conformation, size, volume and capacity, sex character, and overall health. Read on to find out a brief and basic description of each.
For a goat, or female goat, the udder is one of the most important features. Hard, stiff, or lumpy udders are not suitable for reproduction. However, breeders are looking for smooth and full udders that have two functional and flawless breasts. Large or bulbous teats are not considered good for breeding purposes and are usually avoided. “Supernumerary”, or excess milk is also considered a genetic defect.
Goat testicles can tell about the promise of sheep breeding. Like udders in sheep, they must be physically examined by touch to determine their condition. They should be well developed, even in size, firm, not lumpy, and move freely inside the scrotum. The size of the scrotum varies, and depends a lot on age, breed, season, etc. For goat breeding, the recommended scrotal size is between 30 and 33 centimeters. This ensures good cement output.
A “sound” sheep is one in good physical condition and generally free from physical or genetic defects. Good goats have better productivity and longer lifespans.
Also called hip height, the bone size of a goat is an important feature for breeding. Lambs with larger frames tend to grow faster and stronger, and gain heavier body weight. This is true for both sheep and goats. Although it is best to choose a female of reasonable size, larger rams can produce larger and heavier lambs.
Volume and Capacity
Like size, volume and capacity speak to the integrity of the rib spring. This means that a good goat should have deep sides, a broad top, and a round body. Goats with the opposite features tend to be good producers.
The sex character shows the goat’s posture. For rams, breeders want their choice to be stout and masculine, with horns that grow away from the head. For goats, breeders look for feminine and beautiful features.
Like the posture of a sheep, its conformation reflects its overall body shape. However, body shape is quite different depending on the breed. Breeders look for several indications of good conformation, including a straight back and smooth shoulders. The sire of market goats is generally chosen for level docks, while the rams used to prepare market goats should be thick and muscular.
The type of wool varies depending on the breed. Depending on the purpose of the wool, the demand also varies. While wool is important to breeders, they evaluate certain wool traits, including fiber diameter, staple length, uniformity of length and diameter, and the presence of defects. For example, white wool sheep must have no colored fibers.
Mouth and Teeth
Mouth and teeth are important indications of good genetics. Also, the teeth will tell the age of the sheep. Breeders look for the correct mouth, which means that the upper and lower jaws are aligned so that the incisor teeth are flush with the pad on the upper jaw. “Overshot” and “undershot” jaws, or “monkey mouths”, are avoided in the industry. As for teeth, molars are more important than incisors.
Legs, Feet, and Hooves
A sound sheep has straight and square legs at each corner of the body, and is not limping or lame. Legs that are too close to the knees or hocks are not considered straight enough. As for hooves, breeders avoid lambs and rams with cracked or deformed hooves, as well as abnormal or excessive hoof growth. Hoof color varies between breeds, but colored hooves are generally preferred over light ones.
Breeders ultimately want healthy, breeding flocks. This makes it the most important criterion of visual assessment. Alert, bright, and social goats exhibit healthy behavior. They must be free from disease, illness, infection, etc.
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