Care of the ram post mating
Rams costs represent a sizeable investment on sheep farms and most industry sources agree that the expected life span of rams is much shorter than the productive lifespan of ewes and represents a considerable cost on sheep farms. Michael Gottstein, Head of Sheep KT, Teagasc has more information.
Depending on how many seasons a ram performs for, the number of lambs he sires and the cost of the ram, typical ram costs on Irish farms range from approximately one to eight Euro per lamb sired with most being in the three to five Euro range.
In the video and OviCast Podcast episode below, Michael discusses ram management post-mating.
So how do we reduce ram costs on sheep farms? There are a number of options such as;
- Increasing ewe to ram ratio.
- Increasing ewe litter size.
- Increasing ram longevity.
For most flocks the quickest way to immediately reduce ram costs is to focus on ram longevity. The following are areas that should be concentrated on;
Fighting; rams will invariable fight before, during and after mating. Injuries sustained during fighting can frequently result in debilitating injuries or death.
Tips to reduce fighting;
- Have rams acclimatised to one another for a number of weeks prior to mating.
- When introducing a new ram to the group confine them in a tight space for a period of hours. (Small pen, livestock trailer etc.)
- Increase mating group sizes so that there are always a number of ewes in heat that will distract rams from fighting in the early stages of mating.
- If necessary Fit rams with face shields which prevent forward vision and reduces the rams inclination to charge at other rams.
- When mating concludes confine the rams that have been gathered up in a tight space for a period of hours. Turn rams into a fresh field of grass in the evening time when hungry so that they are more inclined to eat and generally will not fight in the dark.
Health issues; rams should be checked at least once every 24 hours so that sick sheep can be identified and treated appropriately. The following are a few key areas that should be kept in mind.
- Lameness, at the end of the mating season rams should have their feet checked and any lameness issues resolved.
- Stomach worms; ram lambs are particularly susceptible to stomach worms during the mating period. Treat ram lambs with an effective wormer to clear out stomach worms.
- Liver fluke; in areas where liver fluke is prevalent treat rams at the end of the mating with a product that is effective against immature fluke.
- Clostridial disease; include the rams in the annual closdridial / pasteurella booster programme when vaccinating the ewes pre lambing. Purchased rams will need a two shot primary course to ensure they are immune for a 12month period.
- Check rams for damage to the brisket or other injuries sustained during the mating period and treat appropriately
- Iceberg diseases; most farmers will be buying in their rams. This represents a big risk in terms of purchasing in diseases such as CLA, Johnes, OPA, MV etc. Be vigilant for signs of ill thrift, lumps around the head and neck regions and signs of pneumonia that do not respond to usual treatments. Talk to your vet if you have concerns.
Nutrition; rams will have been on a high plane of nutrition prior to mating.
- Ram lambs are still growing and need much higher levels of nutrition to sustain rebuilding body condition and for growth.
- For ram lambs or thin older rams feed 0.5kg per head per day of a suitable lamb / ram concentrate feed (must contain ammonium chloride) until body condition lost during mating has been regained.
- Autumn / winter grass is low in energy, often in short supply and intake is further reduced during wet weather. Often winter grass is maintenance only so will not put condition / weight on rams.
- Where grass supply is not sufficient to meet the grazing needs of the rams they must be either housed and fed hay/silage or supplemented with forage outdoors.
- Where rams are out wintered the provision of a dry lie and shelter will greatly increase animal comfort, health, performance and welfare.