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Performance recording in small stock

Performance recording in small stock  Gaan terug

There is always room for improvement in any production system and the small stock industry is no exception.  It is therefore important for all breeders to be aware of the current level of performance in their herd to be able to set goals and monitor any changes.  Performance recording and analyses thereof are excellent selection- and management aids to increase profitability of farming through the identification of more efficient, high producing animals.  Recordings of births and pedigrees, as well as meaningful performance recordings are essential to estimate genetic potential and select genetically superior animals for continuous improvement.  Information collected through performance testing is stored on a central database and used for analyses, both to summarise measurements and estimate genetic merit.  This data can be used to monitor production systems and accomplish breeding objectives. 

It is never too late to start, but when you do, make it a priority instead of simply an option.  Incorporating recordings into your herd requires planning and dedication, but the benefits are invaluable.  The first step to take is the identification of individual animals.  An animal’s identity should never be changed.  There is a standard method of identification, which is as follows:

                  Reg. Stud nr        +    Birth year               +      Sequence nr     =   ID

                        5571              +    12                          +      0123                =    5571120123

The final product of analyses of recordings is breeding (or genetic) values.  There are three major sources of information required for breeding value estimation, which are measurements of the animal itself, measurements of the animal’s relatives and accurate pedigree records.  Furthermore, the compilation of contemporary groups is important.  A contemporary group is a group of animals that have been exposed to the same environmental factors.  An animal’s performance is affected both by the environment and its genetic composition.  If animals are compared within a group of animals that have been exposed to the same environmental effects, the assumption can be made that the variation is due to genetics.  The estimation of breeding values is based on this concept.  Environmental effects include effects such as season and nutrition, as well as biological “effects”/factors, such as:

  • Age at time of measurement: this effect usually disappears at more or less 1 year.
  • Sex/Gender: Female animals usually grow at a slower rate than male animals, have different body compositions and reach lower target weights.
  • Birth status: Twins/triplets usually weigh less than single lambs.
  • Age of dam: Offspring of young ewes usually perform worse than those of older ewes.


Groups should consist of as many animals as possible, with the basic guideline of at least 5 animals of the same sex and birth status.  Furthermore, animals within a group must be offspring of at least 2 different sires.  Manage herds in such a way to help meet these criteria.

There are different stages of recording, which are:

Birth notifications 

Fertility is one of the most important aspects in livestock production.  Data of lambings received from breeders is used to evaluate fertility traits, including ease of lambing.  Birth/lamb information must be recorded as well as ease of lambing, stillbirths and abortions.  Animals that lambed during the same season and received the same quality and type of feed must be compared within the same contemporary group.  Birth notifications must be submitted within 30 days after birth but birth weight must be taken within 7 days after birth.  Stud breeders send notifications in to SA Stud Book while commercial breeders make use of the 602 facility on Logix.

Pre-weaning weights (between 25 – 79 days of age)

Pre-weaning weights of lambs are needed to calculate growth rate and are important for the evaluation of mothering ability (including milk production) and efficiency of ewes.

Weaning weight (between 80 – 149 days of age)

Weaning weight is also needed to calculate the growth rate of lambs, mothering ability and efficiency of ewes.  Weaning weight of lambs is largely influenced by the milk production of their dams.  It is therefore important to determine this effect in order to estimate the true genetic growth potential of the animal itself.  Weights of male and female lambs must be sent together.  The date of weighing, and the growth and raising status of lambs must also be recorded.  The weights of all the ewes’ lambs are added together to calculate a total weight weaned per ewe per production year.  This measurement takes the quality of her lambs into account.

Post-wean weight: between 150 – 364 days

Mature weight: 365 days or more

These weights are required to calculate and evaluate post-wean growth and adaptability of young animals.  Options for growth tests are Central Ram Growth Tests or On-farm Ram Growth Tests.  However, these tests are not compulsory.

Central Ram Growth Tests (optional)

Animals are fed individually at central ram stations to determine feed conversion ratio (feed efficiency).  Feed conversion ratio (FCR) is a trait that indicates the kg feed the animal consumed to gain 1kg body weight.  The weights of the animals are therefore required to calculate growth. 

On-farm Ram Growth Tests (optional)

Post-wean growth rate is calculated using weights of animals that were in a controlled environment on the farm of a member or a private institution.


  •  A breeder must be a paid member of the relevant breed society as well as SA Stud Book to be able to participate in growth tests.  The animal’s age and weight must be between set limits in order to compare animals fairly.
  • Age at start of test:
    • between 4 - 6 months (120 – 180 days) for extensive tests
    • between 3 -5 months (90 – 150 days) for intensive tests
  • Age difference: not more than 2 months (60 days)
  • Weight difference at start of test: not more than 15 kg
  • Minimum and maximum weights differ between breeds (for ram projects), such as:

                      Dorper             35 – 48 kg

                      Merino             35 – 50 kg

                      Meatmaster      30 – 45 kg

  • Length of adaptation period: minimum of 14 days and maximum of 28 days.  An adaptation period is important to allow animals to become familiar with the environment and procedures and to adapt the micro-organisms in the rumen to the feed.  It also gives the animals time to recover from any stress they experienced during transportation.
  • Test length:
    • minimum of 150 days for veld ram projects
    • it can be as short as 42 days for single breeder Ram Growth Tests with high nutritional levels
    • between 3 -5 months (90 – 150 days) for intensive tests
  • Group size: As big as possible, with a minimum of 20 rams and preferably more than 80 if an auction will be held after the evaluation
  • Rams must be weighed on a regular basis (monthly in ram projects and every two weeks in single breeder tests).  Initial, final and at least three additional interim weights are required in veld ram tests   
  • Tests must be carried out in collaboration with SA Stud Book officials for official performance data to be released.  At least one manager must be present during weighing of animals if a SA Stud Book official is not available.  A SA Stud Book advisor must be present at single breeder tests.
  • Animals that are injured or become sick during the project must be removed from the group.
  • Weight gain: the average of the group must be a minimum of 8kg for the test period, or 50g growth per day to receive official recognition.  Additional supplements may be provided in dry years for veld ram projects in order to achieve the minimum requirements.  Ten kilogram or more will be better.
  • Test procedures, feed and management must be planned thoroughly to ensure maximum growth on veld condition.
  • A complete list of all animals with correct identification, birth dates, weights and, if required, project numbers must be submitted to SA Stud Book.
  • Other traits that can also be recorded in post-wean evaluations are:
    • Body measurements (scrotal circumference)
    • Real Time Ultrasound (RTU) measurements for the evaluation of eye muscle area and meat yield
  • Single herd test data will be uploaded by an advisor for processing.  Data of veld ram projects must be submitted in a specific format to SA Stud Book (smallstock@studbook.co.za). 
  • Costs involved in the tests and data processing must be paid to SA Stud Book.


    • Wean data of relevant animals must be submitted to SA Stud Book before the adaptation period.
    • Rams and ewes are tested and evaluated separately and data must also be submitted separately.
    • Adaptation period:  The lambs that fall within the weight limits must be shorn as soon as possible after arrival.  An adaptation period of 28 days follows during which all the rams will be exposed to the same feed and environment.
    • Wool test period: minimum 180 days starting from the day the lambs are shorn.
    • Rams must be in only one management group and remain in the same herd at all times.
    • Test group size: minimum of 20 animals
    • Wool sample:  A mid-rib sample of at least 30g must be taken.  All samples must be taken at the correct mid-rib position.
    • Body weights:  Initial- and final body weights over at least 150 days are required.  Body weights must be taken after a 12-hour fast (no feed or water).
    • Fleece weight:  Weigh all wool at the end of a wool growth period of at least 180 days and round off to the nearest 0.1kg.  Accurate weights are essential.
    • Ensure that the dispatching and sample information are complete and sent with the wool sample.           

      Participation in Reproduction and Weaning phases is compulsory.  The data that must be recorded in these phases includes lambing data (lamb number, birth date, sex, lambing status and ease of lambing, etc.) as well as weaning weights of all lambs.  Participation in post-wean phases is compulsory for certain breeds.  Breeders of other breeds choose at what age their herds will participate post-wean and what measurements to submit, e.g. post-wean weight, mature weight or both.

      Participation in Logix Small Stock performance recording will be beneficial to both stud and commercial farmers.  Reasons for participation at SA Stud Book include:

  • Logix Small stock performance recording of SA Stud Book is an independent, unbiased organisation.  It grants local and international credibility to data, the latter being very important for exports.
  • SA Stud Book is ICAR (International Committee for Animal Recording) acredited and therefore adheres to international rules and standards for data collection, processing and breeding value estimation.
  • It evaluates herds on a regular basis, allowing breeders to monitor progress and reach goals.
  • The collection and processing of all production data follows the same rules and procedures, thereby making it easy to understand over all breeds.  This is especially an advantage for prospective buyers and the industry as a whole.
  • Logix is supported by a large team of researchers and technical advisors that is involved in continuous research and development to ensure that Logix remains on par with international developments and needs of the local market/industry.
  • All information and services are provided and supported by professional researchers and technical advisors who are available for advice regarding all aspects of breeding and animal improvement.
  • Annual awards are given by SA Stud Book to honour herds and animals with exceptional performance.
  • Breeders are granted the opportunity to attend SA Stud Book’s annual Elite Breeding Symposium to stay up to date with national and international developments in the livestock industry and can actively participate in discussions.

Animal recording requires good management, honesty and commitment but it is worth it.  Remember, the main reason for participation in animal recording should not be “marketing advantage”.  Use the information to make wise decisions.  Know your herd; know your faults; know your strengths and use that knowledge to set goals and achieve greatness. 


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