Ramguard: Facial Eczema Tolerance Testing Service

Facial Eczema (FE) has been the curse of farming in many parts of the North Island for over 60 years. But thanks to the work done by scientists at Ruakura Animal Research Station over many years and with the help of farm consultants and some experienced sheep breeders the solution to the problem of Facial Eczema has become a lot closer. Although the solution through breeding for FE resistance is still quite a few years away, many ram breeders have now built up a very useful tolerance in their sheep flocks.

Commercial sheep farmers, that are looking for rams that will increase the tolerance to FE in their own flocks, will have to contact one of the ram breeders listed in the Sheep Council publication "Facing up to Facial Eczema", contact Ramguard, or their nearest local Wool Board field officer.

Remember Ramguard (testing for FE) is a only tool for ram breeders to produce FE tolerant animals for their own use and usually not to produce individually tested animals for sale.

So don't expect to be able to buy the ram breeders top tested rams, since he should be keeping them to improve his own flock.

The advice to "buy FE tested rams" is thus technically not quite correct. It should be to buy rams from a breeder who is testing and using the most tolerant rams as sires.

The commercial sheep farmer should also keep in mind, that improvement won't be immediate, as with all genetic gain, it is slow. But if you stick with it, it will be permanent. The genetic tolerance for FE will build up in your flock when you get hit if there is a bad eczema year. More significant, in the years that you don't see much clinical FE, your flock will improve when otherwise sub-clinical eczema would be depressing your flock's performance.

Ramguard is a service to identify the most tolerant rams in a flock. It supplies sporodesmin (the toxin that causes FE) and analysis of the GGT levels found in the tested rams.

Ram breeders using Ramguard have on average more than doubled the base tolerance of their flocks, after six years breeding, and flocks selecting for more than 10 years have trebled their tolerance for FE.

Some breeders who have testing since the start of 1985 use 4.5 times the base rate they had started out with.

So when you, the commercial sheep farmer are off to buy your rams from a breeder that uses the Ramguard service, there are a few questions you should be asking.

Here are a few pointers:

Ramguard issues a Ramguard Certificate every year to all breeders that make use of the service. Ask for it. It shows all the relevant information.

If you buy a tested ram (usually a 4th), you can ask to see the ram testing sheet that is issued with every test. It shows the tag number of the rams tested, sire of the ram and the resulting GGT levels and the ranking.

For more information contact: Neville Aymes, c/ Ag Research, Private Bag, 3123, Hamilton.
Tel: 07 838 5421    mobile: 029 838 5259    e-mail:neville.amyes@agresearch.co.nz

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