Ram health is essential for achieving top lambing percentages. Ram soundness can be divided into two general health and sexual health:
Ensure the ram is in good body weight and condition, has no disease and is sound on all four feet.
Ensure the ram has normal sized and toned testes and epididymis. All rams with lumps in their testes need to be blood tested and new, clean rams should be kept separate.
The Ram Effect
The “Ram Effect” utilises the effects of male pheromones on non-cycling ewes. On exposure to the sight an scent of a ram, ewes will begin cycling. The first heat is usually short and silent. Multiple ovulation are much more likely in subsequent heats and follow the normal 17 day cycle. The Ram Effect can only be used to manipulate this cycling of ewes at the start of the mating season.
Teasers are used to synchronise ewes for a condensed lambing and to help start cycling activity. Teaser rams should have surgery at least two months before being joined with ewes to ensure all fertile sperm have left the reproductive tract to avoid any accidental early lambs.
There are many advantages to using teaser rams
- Ewes are mostly in lamb in the first planned cycle, making scanning, lambing, docking and even selling more compact.
- Ewes get in lamb with twins before autumn dry or facial eczema takes hold.
- To spread the risk of poor weather affecting lamb survival, mobs can be stagger mated.
Two diseases affect rams, Brucella ovis and Actinobacillus seminis. These diseases reduce their fertility.
Brucella Ovis causes abscesses to form in the lower, storage part of the testicles, thereby disrupting flow and causing infertility. If not removed from a flock it can be responsible for lower lambing percentages. Often, they can be palpated but many were diagnosed last year on blood test only.
Even if you are a commercial flock and not breeding rams for sale, it is a good idea to get your flock rams palpated prior to tupping to ensure they don’t have any epidydimitis lesions or injuries which could reduce their fertility and spread disease to other rams.
It is wise to blood test a few rams as well as palpate if you are unsure of their status.
All rams with lumps in their testes need to be blood tested and new stud rams that are “free” should be kept separate until the ram team is cleared. Teaser rams can be vascetomised at the same time as the ram flock is palpated.