Make sure your ram is in peak condition for mating

John Large

Summer is drawing to a close so preparation for the breeding season should be well under way. Management decisions between now until mating in mid-October will have a big influence on a successful lambing next spring.

We have all heard the line that the ram is half of your flock. It is very important that he works properly - a ram that fails to impregnate your ewes can be very costly.

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Do not forget about the rams. If you leave it until too close to mating it can be too late to rectify any problems or buy replacements and allow them time to get used to their new surroundings.

Good ram management includes a thorough examination: this will help reduce the number of ewes repeating and give a more compact lambing.

This examination should start by accessing the ram's condition.

Aim for a body score of 3.5 to 4 - a ram will lose up to 15pc of his body weight during the six weeks of breeding season so poor body condition can effect performance and fertility.

Rams that are thin should be given some extra feed between now and mating.

Check the ram's reproductive organs: he should have two even-sized testicles that are free of any lumps.

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Check the ram's teeth, to make sure he is not overshot or undershot. Problems with his mouth will prevent the ram from putting on and maintaining condition.

Good feet are vital in a ram to maintain working ability and condition. Check for foot-rot, stiffness and infection, and treat immediately where necessary.

We will buy in two rams for this season. They will have a high Eurostar rating, as genetics has a big influence on improving your flock.

Rams should be bought well in advance of when they are needed to perform.

Infections that give rise to the ram's body temperature increasing by as little as one or two degrees in the two-month period up to mating can render him infertile.

So it is a good idea to have the ram flock together for two months before mating so any potential problems are identified in time.

We have all the cull ewes picked off the flock. The remainder are divided into two groups.

Flushing for a two- to three-week period is not sufficient time to get the thin ewes into the ideal body condition score of 3.5.

These thin ewes are on good grass, - it takes a ewe of condition score of 2.5 around 10 weeks to get to a body score of 3.5. She needs to be on good grass similar in quality to that for lambs. The other group of stronger ewes are being used to clean up after the lambs and thin ewes. They are being used as toppers but will be moved to better grass before mating.

The aim is to get the majority of ewes to near ideal condition by the middle of October. All ewes will receive a mineral dose three weeks before mating.

With grass growth so strong there should be no reason why ewe body condition should not be very good this year.

We have the replacement ewe lambs picked off and shorn. They will not be let to the ram in their first year.

We will keep them as cheaply as possible over their first winter. Grass will be their main diet with some forage rape used for the months of January and February.

Last year's dry hoggets are in very good condition. They are only on a maintenance diet for a few weeks more, then they will get good grass for three weeks before they will be put in lamb.

The only worry I have about them is they seem wild when they are in the yard for any treatments. I hope they settle down before lambing.

John Large farms in Gortnahoe, Co Tipperary

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