Sheep
For midseason lambing flocks, the time to start preparing ewes for mating is now.

It will take eight to ten weeks of good feeding to put condition on thin ewes.

Assess your ewes and select out the thin ones for preferential treatment.

These will need grass of the same quality that you would feed for fattening lambs.

Where this type of grass is not available, concentrate supplementation should be considered.

Keep assessing the ewes every three weeks.

Ewes that fail to respond to increased feed in terms of putting on additional body condition should be culled.

Check the ewes for mastitis. Research from the UK has shown that to accurately assess udder problems, ewes must be handled on a number of occasions over a longer time period.

Any lumps represent problems, and the ewe should be culled.

But in addition to lumps, it is also important to roll each teat between your fingers to ensure that it is not corded.

If you can feel a cord in the teat, then the ewe should also be earmarked for culling.

Rams

Just as body condition is important for ewes, so too it is for rams.

Active rams will lose up to 15% of their body weight during a busy mating period.

Rams that don’t have the body condition to lose will cover less ewes and have less libido (desire to mate).

Assess your ram flock now, and identify rams that are thin, and give them extra feed.

Also, address any health issues such as lameness and parasites.

Inspect the rams to ensure that they are up to the job, and identify what replacements you need to source.

Herd your rams daily, and pay particular attention for signs of ill-health.

Anything that increases body temperature is likely to negatively affect fertility.

A temperature rise of as little as half a degree for a 12-hour period is enough to make a ram temporarily infertile.

With this in mind, pay particular attention to rams at dipping time.

Dirty dip wash can lead to a condition called post-dipping lameness, which will render rams infertile for five to seven weeks after dipping. For this reason, rams should only be dipped in clean, freshly made-up dip baths.

Purchasing rams

Purchase any replacement rams required early, so that they have time to acclimatise to their new surroundings and get used to their new diet.

Ideally, all rams that will be used should be on your farm for at least six weeks before the breeding season, so that you can be sure that they do not suffer from an illness, etc, which may make them temporarily infertile.

When buying rams, look for those that have superior Euro-Star ratings.

High index rams selected on the terminal index produce lambs that grow faster and have a lower level of lambing difficulty.

And high index rams selected on the replacement index produce daughters that have lower levels of lamb mortality, have high litter sizes and lower maintenance requirements.


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