You are currently viewing How can a 5-star Terminal Ram impact my commercial farm results?
Daire (left) & Martin (right) Warren with Toby (sheepdog)

How can a 5-star Terminal Ram impact my commercial farm results?

Martin Warren is a part-time sheep farmer from just outside Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal. His four children Daire, Gerry, Nessa, Kelsie, and father John, are all involved with the sheep enterprise. Martin’s brother Aidan also works on the farm part-time throughout the year.

The holding consists of 26 hectares ( 14 has of hill ground and 12 has of good quality grazing land). The commercial flock currently consists of 100 breeding ewes (crossbred Texel/Charollais/Suffolk) and 40 hogget replacements with the ewes lambing down to 1.7 lambs per ewe in 2024.

Daire has just finished his second year at Agriculture College in Gurteen Co. Tipperary and in 2020 started his flock of Purebred Belclares, which consists of 16 mature ewes, 12 hogget rams, and 9 replacement hoggets with the ewes lambing down to 2.0 lambs per ewe in 2024.

The family started performance recording the commercial flock in 2021 with Sheep Ireland’s LambPlus programme. All lambs, Commercial and Pedigree, are tagged and genotyped within a week after lambing and data is recorded throughout the year using the Sheep Ireland App and management tools.

When Aidan was asked about why to be a member of LambPlus programme, he responded;

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking the time to accurately record the required data throughout the year.  This gives you valuable information on how your lambs are performing and this information can be used to influence management decisions.

We just completed our 40-day weighing of all 200 lambs in the flock on the 26th of May. After completion of all the weighing recordings, we can generate a weighing report for lambs, and analyse which rams are the best performers. Performance data shows clearly the outcome of using top star rams”.

As our commercial flock is also performance recorded with Sheep Ireland, this provides us with a star rating for all sheep on the Replacement and Terminal index. We use different ram breeds, with emphasis on Belcare for selecting replacements, and Texel/Charollais/Suffolk for finishing lambs.”

All lambs are grass-fed till early October depending on the weather. Replacement ewe lambs are picked considering the star ratings and some ewe lambs are also sold from the farm for breeding. Any remaining lambs not selected for breeding receive concentrates until finishing.

For this system, we’ll analyse the real impact of using two different Texel rams on the flock for finishing lambs.

Star ratings are a prediction, and with it, an accuracy figure is displayed. In September 2021 (before the mating season), these rams were 3-star (accuracy of 81%) and 5-star (accuracy of 42% – not genotyped at that moment) on the Terminal index respectively.

Their actual star rating now (figures below) is 2-star Terminal (was 3 in September 2021) vs 5-star Terminal (was 5 in September 2021). It’s important to consider that these values take into account progeny performance (higher accuracy).

Both rams were mated with commercial ewes in 2021 and 2022, and 190 progenies were born in 2022 and 2023 and sent to the factory. This allows us to measure and compare the performance of each ram for Terminal traits on the lambs.

Note: Terminal. If a farmer desires a ram to breed only lambs for slaughter then they should select a ram based on this index. The bulk of this index is a combination of Lamb Survivability and Days to Slaughter. The € value beside the index represents the difference in profit that each lamb sired from this ram will have. This € value is an across-breed value, so different breeds can be compared to each other.

For this comparison, we are focusing on two aspects:

  • Weighing: Birth, 40-day, 100 days.
  • Days to slaughter and carcass weight.

The performance of the 190 progenies of the 2 rams between 2022 and 2023, shows consistently that in both seasons the progeny of the 5-star Terminal ram weighed 1-2 kg more at 100 days than the 2-star Terminal ram.

Also, the performance of the progeny of the 2 rams between 2022 and 2023, shows that in both seasons the progeny of the 5-star Terminal ram were slaughtered 24-28 days earlier, with similar carcass weights.


Other traits of importance in the Terminal index are Survivability and Lambing difficulty. When a ram is ranked high in the Survivability sub-index means that a higher percentage of lambs are predicted to survive past 48 hours of birth. Comparing the above two rams, among the 190 progenies, the 5-star ram showed to have 3.5 % more lambs survivability and 3% less lambing difficulty, than the 2-star ram.

Why is it so important to finish the lambs earlier?

These results highlight the benefits of using a 5-star Terminal ram vs a lower-star ram.

  • Higher lambs’ growth rate.
  • More kilos at weaning.
  • Fewer days to fatten.

Considering the costs of feeding at this particular farm in 2023, a gain of 28 days impacted on an extra profit of €11 per lamb because of fewer costs on silage, nuts, bedding, minerals, and vet products.

  • The cost of feeding a lamb can determine the profitability of the system.
  • Finishing lambs in fewer days will mean a higher income because of lower costs by using a 5-star Terminal ram.


Overall, a 5-star Terminal ram contributes to a more productive, sustainable, and profitable system.