Achieving a good pregnancy rate is only possible with healthy, fertile rams. Highly fertile rams improve the overall reproductive efficiency of the flock by producing more viable lambs in a shorter period. Rams should be given a full MOT annually at least 10 weeks before tupping, to allow adequate time to replace questionable rams who may not seem to have all the requirements for your ladies.
Pre-tupping ram examination includes the following 4 key areas:
Teeth – poor dentition will reduce a ram’s desire to feed and thus reduce energy for reproduction
Toes – Lameness has a major effect on ram fertility, reducing sperm production and stopping mounting behaviour
Testicles – scrotal examination, measurement of testicles, firmness and checking for lumps, also examine prepuce and penis
Tone – General physical examination especially conformation – Body Condition Score 3.5-4/5
It is no good having the best ram if your ewes are not right. So now check them.
Points to be considered are: good teeth, good feet, sound in the udder, and good breed type. Feet can be trimmed if necessary at this point. If you are going to use a fly spray to keep the sheep free of blowfly and midges do it at least 2 weeks before the ram goes in to prevent the smell masking the ewe’s own smells as this can put the rams off.
Now the ewes and rams have had full health checks and have been fed well over the past 12 weeks to ensure peak body condition, they are now ready to meet!
The normal gestation period of ewes is approximately 147 days, ranging from 144 to 152 days. Tradition was to pop the ram in on bonfire night and you will start lambing on the 1st April.
Portlands can lamb any time of the year so plan when you wish to start which fits in with your cycle. Ewes are receptive to a ram for about 30 hours at a time, every 17 days. The ram detects the hormonal changes in the ewes using receptors under his top lip, you will see them ‘sniffing’ the air with lips curled up; this is how he knows when to mate with each ewe, but the ewes will give him a come-hither look when they are ready.
You may wish to fit your ram with a raddle; a harness with a coloured wax block attached to the chest, which marks each ewe during mating. The wax block is replaced weekly with a darker coloured block, so that the colour of the most recent mating will over-write any previous mating. the ewe's cycle is 17 days and to give any ewe a second chance which does not take the ram in the first cycle, two cycles form the basis of managing the tupping program i.e. 34 days.
Once the ewe is pregnant, the ram will lose interest, so we can take the darkest colour as the date of conception. This way we know which ewes are pregnant and when their lambs are due. Keep a note of the date your sheep has a coloured rump, it will give you a good idea when she is due and what her dietary requirements are during gestation to ensure healthy lambs.
Putting in your Ram is the start of your Shepard’s year so when he is in the field working, go home and celebrate you have done all you can, it’s up to him now!
The Kinship Programme
Check the suitability of your ram for use with your flock. Pleas contact us with your ram's name and number and also the name and number of the ewes you wish to cover.