With joining just around the corner, many producers are working to control lameness and get their ewes in the best condition to conceive one or even multiple healthy lambs and lay the foundations for another successful lambing season next year. But what are they doing with their rams?
Minimise the risk of misfires
Rams are a crucial part of any sheep breeding system. Rams account for 50% of the breeding equation, and because there are less rams than ewes (at around 3% of total ewes), each ram must perform at least 33 times to achieve breeding success. Therefore, having one or more underperforming rams can have a devastating effect on scanning rates. The ideal joining period is no longer than 6 weeks. This means, that for best results, rams need to be in peak condition and fully functional from day one to day 42.
Value of ram checks
To ensure rams are in peak condition to perform at their best for 42 days, ANP recommends performing an initial ram assessment on the ram team 12 weeks prior to joining. The reason for 12 weeks is so rams that are out of breeding specification, ill or injured have time to heal, get into breeding condition or be replaced well before day one of joining.
Performing a ram check
During the ram assessment, ANP recommend checking their teeth, toes, testes, tackle and body against the following criteria.
Check for broken teeth that may affect feeding behaviour
Hooves should not be tender and nail tissue should be firm. Foot pair and treat for lameness prior to joining
Visually examine and squeeze each testicle. They should be around the size of a coke can and feel firm yet springy, like a flexed bicep
Visually examine penis for infection or damage (only check visually and contact a vet if infection is suspected
Work towards target body condition score of 3.5. Supplement feed if required. Also, check for flystrike or other infections and treat accordingly
Boggy conditions lead to lameness
Hoof health has been of particular concern this year, as little reprieve from the wet and boggy conditions throughout most of the year has seen a significant increase in reports of lameness, especially in sheep.
Lameness is detrimental to joining and fertility
Hoof infection and lameness can be detrimental to joining in several ways. Most noticeably, lameness can seriously hinder mobility reducing grazing time and the capability to selectively feed. Furthermore, a ram and ewe’s inclination and capacity to serve and be served is greatly diminished. On top of this, a combination of the activation of the immune system, to help fight infection, and increased stress can significantly disrupt fertility.
Control lameness during summer
The period from late spring to the end of summer is the perfect time to control hoof infections, as a combination of warmer and drier conditions, in most part, can assist with getting livestock off their feet, giving hooves the opportunity to dry out. Supporting hoof pairing with mineral supplementation and foot bathing has been shown to deliver the best results, especially when performed during the drier months.
StockMins-Hoof n Horn
Feeding affected or at-risk livestock a mineral supplement fortified with Biotin, organic and inorganic zinc and iodine can provide both short and long-term hoof health benefits. In StockMins-Hoof n Horn, elevated levels of organic and inorganic zinc and therapeutic levels of iodine and vitamin E can help fight infection, repair damaged tissue and strengthen the hoof in the short-term, while Biotin promotes healthy hoof growth and structure that may assist hoof integrity in time for the wetter months.
These active ingredients in combination with phosphorus and the other essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements within StockMins-Hoof n Horn also support fertility, making StockMins-Hoof n Horn the perfect supplement to assist joining preparations this summer.