Many sheep farmers are letting out rams to the their ewes and some record keeping during mating could help when lambing season comes around, according to Teagasc Research Officer, Tim Keady.
Keady outlined that the use of raddle on a ram can help farmers to batch ewes when it comes closer to the lambing season.
“Farmers should start using a light coloured raddle and then change the colour every 7 to 10 days, depending on the level of mating going on,” he said.
By changing the raddle colour, a farmer can estimate the date the ewe had mated with the ram and calculate the approximate date that ewe will lamb down, he said.
Along with scanning, this allows the farmer to batch the ewes correctly and prevents over-feeding or under-feeding of the sheep prior to lambing.
Keady also pointed out that most of the preparation work prior to mating ewes with the ram should already have been carried out.
“Firstly ewes should be in good condition, their body condition score should be between 3.5 or 4, but it’s to late to change that now,” he said.
With regards to the ram, a young ram lamb can be allowed to comfortably cover 30 ewes. However, if the lamb was born early in the year and is in good condition he can be allowed to mate with up to 40 ewes.
Where the flock is split into different batches, rams should ideally be switched every 20 days to ensure that the all of the ewes are mated, Keady indicated.
Where farmers are running multiple rams with a flock of ewes, it doesn’t matter as much if a ram is lazy or infertile as the other ram or rams will pick up the slack.
Keady also advises farmers to walk through their flocks to monitor the mating activity on a regular basis.
The ‘ram effect’, which is a natural method of bringing ewes cycling at the beginning of their natural breeding season, has benefits with regards to compacting both the mating and lambing period, he added.
The ram effect has both pros and cons. It will compact the mating season and lambing period, but farmers must have both the help and the right facilities to deal with the shortened lambing period.
The ram effect, which consists of letting the ewes see and smell without allowing physical contact, will have little affect to older ewes, as they have already begun cycling, the Teagasc Officer said.
However, Keady also said that this technique will work on ewe lambs that farmers will not be letting out to the ram for another two-to-three weeks.