HOW TO: Improve Reproduction
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
A healthy ram is essential for meeting your production goals. Check your rams for body condition score and any health issues before the start of each breeding season: eyes, teeth, feet, legs, and testicles. It's also a good idea to test your rams' sperm to verify they're fertile.
These steps are referred to collectively as a breeding soundness evaluation. Check far enough in advance of breeding to allow for ram treatment or replacement. You want your rams to be in peak condition for breeding.
A well-cared-for ram can endure for many years before needing to be replaced. Feed grain to your rams one to two weeks before breeding to ensure they are in good body condition (body condition score 3), and they will be fed the same ration as the ewes during mating. For optimal conception, use young rams with older ewes, around 20 ewes per ram lamb, and experienced rams with ewe lambs, about 25 to 30 ewe lambs each ram.
Take care not to crossbreed daughters with their fathers or grandfathers, or mothers with sons. If your rams are caring after a big flock of ewes or synchronized ewes, exchange rams periodically so they can relax and feed.
Use an odd number of rams in large flocks; for example, if you use three rams, two will fight and one will mat. If you only have one ram, put a marking harness on him and use one colour for the first 17 days, then replace the first ram with a clean-up ram and use a new colour marker for the remaining 17 days.
If the ewe is marked a second or third time, record her number because she may not be viable. Make a note of the first and last breeding dates on your calendar.
When ewe lambs start their first estrus, they are usually six months old, or two-thirds of their adult weight. Estrus lasts an average of 17 days, with a standing heat of roughly 30 hours. Ovulation happens 28 hours after the beginning of estrus.
The typical gestation period is 147 days, but it can begin as early as day 143 and go as long as 153 days, depending on the breed, age, and number of lambs carried by the ewe.