Rather than wait to see how your ram performs at tupping time, give him a ram MOT beforehand. A surprisingly high number of rams that appear to be healthy experience problems during the mating season. Yet many of these issues can be ironed out in advance.
Peak performance is more profitable
When you ensure rams are truly ready for the mating season, you can use fewer rams to achieve more. It’s possible for one ram to service up to 100 ewes, but if they’re not in the best possible condition, one ram could perhaps only service 40. To aim for the highest possible ratio, put your rams through a simple ram MOT. That is a good physical check-up.
What does a ram MOT check for?
There are four main areas to check when inspecting your ram. However, give your sheep a head start by making sure they are vaccinated against clostridial diseases and other conditions that are a risk on your farm, as performance athletes, protect them from parasites. After this, perform physical checks to primarily check weight and virility:
Body Condition Score
A ram should not be too fat or too thin at tupping season. You can determine this from a Body Condition Score (BCS), which sits between 1 and 5. The ideal score is 3.5 to 4, which is determined by a physical examination. A lean ram will not be able to service as many ewes as you might hope and an overweight ram will struggle to perform as well.
Healthy teeth are a good indication that a ram is well-nourished. If the teeth are in poor condition the sheep more than likely does not have a balanced diet. This can result in a low BCS. If an inspection of the ram’s mouth shows any indication that the sheep is not in the best of health, consider improving the nutrition.
Just as a healthy diet produces the desired BCS, a healthy testicle will produce 80% more semen. Make sure testicles are equal in size, large and firm, not soft, and remember it takes seven weeks for sperm to mature. Look for positive signs of virility many weeks in advance of the mating season to avoid disappointment.
Rams are very busy during the mating season. With up to 100 ewes to be serviced any problem with their legs or hooves, even, can have a huge impact on performance. Look for abnormalities and check older rams for arthritis. Feet can be trimmed and foot rot can be treated, but more serious problems may never heal and the ram might need to be culled.
When to perform a ram MOT
The job of the ram MOT is to weed out rams that are simply unable to perform to the required standard. Better to find out before the mating season begins than to the suffer the consequences. Culling may seem like a drastic measure, but profits can only stabilise if a flock is kept in peak condition.
Perform a ram MOT ten weeks before tupping and there’s every chance that issues with body weight or virility can be addressed in good time.
For further information, be sure to download the AHDB guide on Ram MOT’s here, and check out their short video below:
For further information please see the product’s SPC or contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible).
Dave is an RCVS advanced practitioner in Sheep Health and Production. He qualified from the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in 2004, working mainly as a production animal veterinary surgeon, until joining Zoetis (previously known as Pfizer Animal Health) in 2010 as an Area Veterinary Manager. In 2015 Dave joined the Zoetis National Veterinary Manager team.
Dave’s areas of interest are the health and production of sheep and the sustainable control of parasites in farm animals. He is the chair of the NOAH anti-parasitics committee and sits on various national cross industry bodies including the sustainable control of parasites in sheep (SCOPS) board.
Dave is from a farming background and still manages his own flock of pedigree Texel and commercial mule sheep on the Welsh-Shropshire border.