Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Culling Rates

I was reading some past comments on Laura Matthews blog about her Coopworth ram and how the Coopworth registry has a mandatory 75% cull rate in rams and 30% cull rate in ewes.

When I first read it, I was like WOW that's a pretty serious number for rams, but then went back to my breedings in the past. In cattle our cull rate was 25% for heifers and 95% for bulls. We typically kept most of our heifers for replacements. If they didn't work out, they were sold. Our bulls we are/were extremely picky about. This year my cull rates for the heifers was 50%, and the bulls 95%. I kept only one bull and 2 heifers. Since I only ended up with 4 heifers, and sold two, that would be the 50% :)

In sheep in years past my cull rate was 35-60% in ewes and in rams 50-100% in rams. My first year I culled all of my rams ( I ate them) and same as my 2nd year. I did winter some over to eat them, but never used any for breeding, even though I did registere a few. This year I kept back 50% of my ram lambs as over half of them were from AI and they were the last of those bloodlines. I want to grow them on to see how they develop and compare them to the lambs that are born next year from AI.

It would be interesting to see what Shetland or BFL people do for culling %'s. I bet some Shetland breeders have zero culling as they either don't breed, or they can't part with any as they are their pets :) Its a bummer that Shetlands are not more based on production like other breeds of sheep that are considered livestock, and not pets. I think we'd see improvement a lot faster in them if they were not pets first and kept because they are cute or friendly. Even if they aren't registered, I don't think that constitutes culling?

What are your percentages?


Somerhill said...

I don't have exact figures without going through past records, but I seldom keep/sell more than 5 rams in a year. There have been years when I shipped all the rams.
I feel very strongly about this.

Becky Utecht said...

Just wondering G., when you say "cull" are you including stock that you sold to others for breeding purposes? I guess I haven't considered that as culling since those sheep are still contributing to the gene pool.

Laura said...

I guess I should have said that the cull rate of 75% rams/ 25% ewes is for registering, if a breeder wished they could keep or sell unregistered stock, but most (Coopworth)farms do not sell/use all their ewe lambs (or ram lambs!) Hidden Valley/Wagners actually only registers about 30% of their ewe lambs (30 out of 150+) and 5-15% of their ram lambs (8-15, depending on if they did AI that year, out of 150+.) The Coopworth registry ha s interesting (about deregistering animals that don't perform well,ect.) bylaws-you should read them.

This year I culled 5 out of about 30 adult Shetland ewes. I sold 1 ram lamb and have 3-4 that I'm keeping so 4-5 out of 7 ram lambs (the 5'th will probably end up as a cull though.) I did keep and register 9 of my 10 Shetland ewe lambs this year (the only cull ewe lamb killed herself by getting tangled in electric netting! and 1 may go to market next year as she is really small.) I would have had higher culling rates in my adult ewes if I had not lost so many ewes this spring.
Last year I culled 9 adult Shetland ewes out of about 36. I culled 9 out of 11 ram lambs (sold 1 and the other was for sale, but I got him turned into my teaser ram.) I kept or sold 19 out of 22 ewe lambs.

Juliann said...

This year, I culled half my ram lambs, although in past years it's been a higher rate. I feel I had a higher quality ram lamb crop this year (best ever) because I've culled so much in the past, and I'm using better animals.
I usually end up culling about a fourth of my ewes and ewe lambs every year. That may include moving some to pet homes with no papers, but I don't sell a lot into pet homes because most of my sheep arn't tame and don't act like dogs. Most go to market.
If it isn't NASSA registered, it's a grade sheep.
I recall a breeder that I respect saying that he forced himself to cull the bottom 1/3 quality of his flock every year, to force himself to only breed and register better and better sheep. He didn't sell lambs at all, only mature stock. I thought that was over the top at the time, but I understand and respect the logic behind it.
I don't mind "pet breeders" per se, I think people are attracted to this breed for lots of different reasons. But I feel anyone taking people's hard earned money for pedigreed livestock has an obligation to learn breed characteristics and conformation. This doesn't happen overnight, it takes years of study and experience.
For example, I saw a LOT of this in babydoll southdowns. Although some breeders did cull, many didn't and I saw quite a few poor quality animals out there being sold for high dollars and used for breeding. I think we are past this stage, I think most Shetland breeders do cull.

Angela Rountree said...

This is my 3rd autumn with Shetlands and their lambs. This year, I culled to slaughter 11 of 12 ram lambs (~92%) and one of 6 ewe lambs (~17%, but I may cull some of them after they grow out) I also culled 2 of 9 yearling ewes, and 4 of 13 adult ewes this year.

Garrett808 said...

HI Becky!

I wouldn't think selling replacement stock would be culling. I think of culling as not allowing it to be registered or used for breeding in purebred situations. If I cull, it means to pet homes, the freezer or to market.

Cynthia said...

I would agree with your definition Garrett and have culled about the same ratio as have you. I brought in -at great expense- a F2 ram from out west one year and slaughtered 100% of his lambs.

It does hurt -financially and emotionally- to be so aggressive, but without a vigorous culling standard there is simply no way of improving any breed.

For a breed such as our imported Shetlands there is no other choice really. We had a limited pool to draw from from the beginning and much work to accomplish with far fewer proven importable rams than many much less complicated breeds.

Sadly, there has been far too much selling of substandard stock and much too little culling, period.

Theresa said...

Hi Garrett,
My cull rate for rams is pretty high as the bar is really high for them; normally by 1 year of age it is close to 85-95%, depending on how many have been sold as breedstock and how many have been retained. I normally cull out at around 75% by mid-summer though some of those could easily be used for breeding rams.

For ewes, my standard is getting higher every year though this year most have been retained, with only a few sold as breedstock and a couple for pets. With the ewe lambs this year, probably a total of 40% are top notch keepers/replacements, 15% have been sold as breedstock, 15% are riding the fence as pets/culls and 15% are riding the fence as breedstock keep/for sale. The rest were pets.

Of last years ewe lambs (yearlings), I'm only going to keep a total of 5-8 (between Tori and I) out of well over 20. Some that I kept (not included in the 5-8) will be sold or culled after lambing next year.

Some years more are retained, some years less. I'm getting pickier for one, and also figuring out the best "niches" for breeding.

I've got "enough" ewes for awhile, even with culling/selling 6-12 adults next year. I'm getting to the point that I almost don't want to breed for very many pures as I do not like culling so heavily as the "culls" are getting better. How do you justify culling a drop dead square conformation with a gorgeous head, and the only fault a heavier tail? Stuff like that is hard. Bad hocks are a no brainer. Bad fleece is too. But when they are "almost" good, it's tough.

Gail V said...

But Garrett,
who cares if the sheep sold as pets aren't culled, instead, so that we have improved pets? They are only that, then, and they aren't going to enter the registered gene pool. It's like insisting that people put down all mutt dogs because only purebred ones should survive. There are people who take the opposite view, too.
I think your judgments of other people's shepherding are going a bit far. I am happy, however, that you wish to bring in improved genetics so we can all buy some without troubling ourselves to do it. ;-)

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