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Country: UK

Dairy or/and meat sheep: meat /dairy

Source of information: QMS, AHDB, Signet, SRUC knowledge

Level of solution:






Just Being Tested


Aim: To reduce lambing difficulties and improve lamb survival by identifying rams with favorable estimated breeding values (EBVs)


  • Choosing a ram with relevant EBV traits for your flock would be beneficial
  • Useful traits have been identified as having a genetic component
  • Traits to look for:
    • lambing ease (assistance at lambing) and birth weight are available in some breeds (e.g. Texel), and can be used to choose the right ram for your ewe lambs or gimmers (so lambs are not too big)
    • maternal ability (ability of the ewe/female offspring to rear a lamb/have good milk production)
    • lamb survival (e.g. those available for Scottish Blackface & Lleyn breeds)

Expected benefits: Improved lamb survival and reduced incidence of lambing difficulties.

Prerequisites and/or limits (knowledge, training, capabilities, cost, management, facilities, equipment, etc.)

  • Farmers need to understand how to choose the right animal with the right EBV
  • Farmers need to understand how the EBV traits work
  • Rams with relevant EBV traits need to be available (not the case for all breeds)
  • Useful to measure and record lamb birth weights (although not always practical)
  • Not many hardy breeds are sold with EBVs.

 Scientific basis:

Dwyer, C. M. (2003) Behavioural development in the neonatal lamb: Effect of maternal and birth-related factors. Theriogenology 59: 1027-1050;

MacFarlane, J.M., Matheson, S.M. & Dwyer, C.M. (2010) Genetic parameters for birth difficulty, lamb vigour and lamb sucking ability in Suffolk sheep. Animal Welfare 19 99-105;

Dwyer, C.M. & Bünger, L. (2012) Factors affecting dystocia and offspring vigour in different sheep genotypes. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 103: 257-264;

Matheson, S.M., Bünger, L. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012) Genetic parameters for fitness and neonatal behavior traits in sheep. Behavior Genetics 42: 899-911.


Tips and tricks:

 lamb station

outdoor lamb recording bag

super crook for outdoor systems


Expected impacts






lamb mortality “animal”


lambing difficulty

Solution No/Name

53 – technical note using EBV rams

Service provider                                                                    Technicians+vet or farmers


Benefit expected

Less abortion



Is the solution suitable for various production systems




What are the asset costs

Costs can be dependent on age, breed, index value, demand. Would start at 100-500, but could go much higher.

What are the maintenance costs


Any limits to its applicability

Need to have performance recorded animals available

Work Load



Service provider/tech.-vet-others

How much time is required to prepare and implement the solution



How many people is needed to implement the solution?




How long it takes to get results?

>= 1 week

How long it takes to see  an effect on sheep productivity?

depending on traits used, both current and all future production




Service provider/technicians-vet-others

What kind of equipment/tool are necessary?



Skill/Knowledge-Training (farmer)

Does the solution need any specific skill/knowledge or training?

training on choosing the right ram

How much time will be required for training

1 day

Wider Environment

Is there any particular regulation link to the solution?


Does the solution need any particular structure or organisation?

being able to buy rams with EBVs – a breeding scheme needs to exist.



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