MT: Blackman raises Certified Columbia Ram
A yearling Columbia ram bred and raised by Loni Blackman of Craig, Montana achieved Certified Columbia Ram status based on his performance during the 2019-2020 North Dakota Ram Test in Hettinger, ND. Loni’s 19098 ram (CSBA registration Y-16447) is a May-born, RR twin sired by Langhus G538 (CSBA registration Y-12783), a ram that was on test in the final year of Central Montana Ram Test. He is out of L Blackman 967 (CSBA registration Y-12873), an aged ewe bred and raised by Loni that has a 225% lambing rate. Over the course of 140 days on test, 19098 gained 0.86 pounds per day and had a fleece fiber diameter of 23.97 microns, a 365-day estimated staple length of 4.3 inches, and a rib eye area of 1.3 square inches per 100 pounds of body weight.
When asked to describe 19098’s dam, Loni was brief. “She’s a traditional, open-faced, range-type ewe.” Four generations back in this ewe’s pedigree is Loni’s very first sheep, a bum lamb that she named Elsheila that became the foundation of her flock.
Such extended generational connections speak to Loni’s dedication to the genetics for which the entire Blackman family is noted. Her parents, Raina and Scott, are long-time Columbia producers and her younger sister, Jean, is integral to the operation, as well. It also hints at Loni’s sure eye for quality and for genetic combinations that work. In fact, Raina admits, “Loni has been kicking our butts in the ram department ever since we gave her this ram’s great, great grandmother as a bum 22 years ago.”
A focus on performance—measured objectively, documented carefully, and used as the basis for retention and for culling—underpins Loni’s and her family’s management. Their reliance on objective data fits hand-in-glove with the rationale built into ram tests, where rams are fed, managed, and measured under identical conditions, making it possible to make “apples to apples” comparisons of their performance.
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Consistency of conditions and measurements are essential components of the relatively new Certified Columbia Ram program. Certification criteria were established in 2018 and the program recognized its first recipients in 2019. The criteria honor the dual-purpose breed standards that were established in 1941, when the Columbia association was first organized, but they also include traits more recently recognized as important for both seed stock and commercial producers. The Columbia Sheep Breeders Association is the first among the white-faced range sheep breeds to establish a minimum acceptable ribeye area. That ribeye criterion is intended to put pressure on the trait without sacrificing any of the other important maternal and dual-purpose breed qualities. The goals of the certification program are to identify rams that allow the breed to make steady progress in multiple, objectively measured traits, to challenge seed stock producers to improve their own flocks, and to provide registered and commercial producers with additional decision-making tools.
Based on production data that were revealed during his time on test, as well as the impressive lambing rate of his dam, Loni will keep newly certified ram 19098 for use within the Blackman family’s flock. He exemplifies the dual-purpose qualities of weight gain, carcass quality, and fleece traits for which Columbia sheep were bred—qualities that Loni Blackman stresses in her flock.
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