Preparing for the breeding season on sheep farms
According to Teagasc the time to prepare for the breeding season is now. It says even though for most sheep flocks mating is due to take place in October and November, the time to go through the breeding ewes and rams is now.
Ewe flock assembly
Teagasc advises farmers to go through all the ewes in the flock. Identify any that caused problems this year.
Can you still identify them? Do you still know which ewes:
- were bad mothers;
- had big teats that lambs could not suckle;
- had milk fever/delayed lambing;
- had difficult lambing;
- had little or no milk; or,
- were persistently lame.
Teagasc says these are the ewes that represent the biggest workload on your farm. If you fail to identify them now, you will meet them again next year in the lambing shed. Good records are vital if progress is to be made with the breeding flock. If your records don’t enable you to still identify these ewes now then you need to consider how you are going to change this for the coming year.
Once you have identified the ewes for culling the next job is to get the remainder of the ewe flock in shape for mating. Again, time is required to get ewes into the right body condition. Flushing for a two-to-three-week period is not sufficient time to get thin ewes into the ideal body condition score of 3.5. A ewe that is in body condition score of 2.5 today will need 10 weeks of good grass to get her to a body condition score of 3.5. Divide your ewe flock into ewes that are in good condition (these can be used as toppers) and those that are thin (these need to get good grass – similar in quality to that for the lambs).
Ram flock assembly
According to Teagasc the ram is half of your flock and a ram that fails to impregnate ewes can be very expensive. It says ensuring that rams are in working condition starts now. Just like the ewe flock every flock owner should go through the rams to ensure that they will be up to the job come October/November. Rams need to have good feet and also be in very good body condition so that they can afford to lose weight during the busy mating season. However, more importantly is the fertility of the ram.
Semen that is ejaculated in October is produced over a period of almost two months. Therefore, infections that give a rise to the ram’s body temperature in the two-month period up to mating can render the ram infertile. For this reason, it is a good idea to have the ram flock assembled at least two months prior to mating so that any potential problems are identified in time and if required replacement rams used.