For most people, fall is that time of year when things start to slow down. Leaves fall from the trees, garden chores are more or less finished, and even our work compulsions can slow down.
However, there is no “slow” time of year in a shepherd’s life. There is still a lot of work to be done and there is work that needs to be done.
Although some sheep can breed year-round, most of them are known as “seasonal breeders.” Like deer and other animals that fall into this category, they mate only in the fall months.
The good news is that your rams and sheep are quite self-sufficient in this regard. Let them in the same paddock and soon there will be a little romance.
However, there are a few things you need to know – and some preparations you need to make – if you are going to have a successful lamb season next year.
To ensure a successful breeding and lambing season, you need to know about the maintenance of fall sheep.
When do sheep breed?
Most sheep breeds are seasonal breeders, which means they breed when day length begins to decrease.
Mostly for sheep, that is, in October and November.
Eve has an estrus that lasts for 36 hours, which is the period in which she will stand to breed. This estrus cycle continues every 16-17 days until the ewe breeds. They may also stop when she has returned to anestrus.
There are some breeds of sheep for which this is not the case. For example, Rambouillets, Horned Dorsets, and Merinos have increased breeding.
Steps to ensure successful lambing
Again, your rams and sheep do not need to be involved in the breeding process.
However, there are some management tasks you may need to add to your to-do list to ensure that next spring’s lamb is as healthy as possible.
1. Evaluate Body Condition
The first and most important thing to do when your sheep are getting ready to breed is to evaluate their body condition. This should be done for both the sheep and the rams.
Body condition scoring is one method that will help you determine the nutrition and genetics in a herd. You should score each sheep on a 5-point scale, with 1 extremely thin and 5 extremely fat. Ideally, the body position should be 3-right in the middle!
Right before breeding isn’t the only time you need to evaluate your body’s condition.
This should also be done before the lamb and just after your lamb is weaned.
It’s a great thing to add to your herd maintenance checklist at any time of year because it can help you stay aware of any issues that may pop up.
2. How to Evaluate Body Condition
To evaluate body condition, handle your sheep in the loin area. You will need to assess how much fat is in the back of the sheep and just below the bone at the waist.
You should also see how prominent the ribs and hip bones are by looking and feeling. If you can see them, it’s a sign that your sheep is closer to a 1 on the body condition scale, and if you can feel them, it’s probably a 2. If you can feel the ribs, but only when you apply some pressure, that’s ideal.
The sheep’s spine should not be visible along the top of the sheep. It should be covered with muscle.
The muscles of both the legs and the waist should be full and not exploited.
Ideally, you should try not to have sheep until they are 3 or 4. Very fat or very thin sheep may have trouble carrying lambs, while rams may not have as high a sperm count as they could be.
If weight isn’t ideal, aim to improve body condition by 10% in either direction over the longest period possible. Be sure to monitor body condition throughout the year, not just before breeding, to give you enough time to make these changes if necessary.
3. Isolate or isolate non-breeders
Now is a good time to determine which sheep should not be spayed either.
You should either separate or isolate them so that sheep with poor body condition or known health problems are not born.
4. Improving Feeding Strategy
After evaluating body condition, you can take steps to improve your feeding strategy. If your sheep are underweight, you may need to increase the amount of protein and energy in their feed.
Many producers also shed their sheep. It sounds complicated, but the act of increasing nutrition just before breeding to encourage twins. Start doing this about a month before introducing your sheep to the ram.
Once a Eve has more dietary energy and calories, her body condition will improve, telling her body that she can support more than one lamb. Her ovulation rate will increase and as a result the percentage of lambs should also be higher.
To flush your sheep, all you need to do is add a little grain at half a pound to 1 pound per ewe, per day. You can also move the herd to better pastures, but this can be difficult in areas where fall weather is unpredictable.
Corn or mixed grains can be used.
Continue to supply additional calories for a few weeks after the rams are removed. By this point, the embryo should be implanted.
Flushing is not something that should only be done to sheep.
Rams also benefit from additional rations as they can help them shed less weight and increase strength during breeding.
5. Don’t Forget Ramso
There are some steps that need to be taken to address the rams even during the breeding season.
It is also important that you evaluate the body condition of any rams used for breeding.
They should be vigorous and active. Those who produce wool must have high quality wool. Weight and body condition are as important for rams as they are for sheep because overweight people lack proper libido and those who are underweight have poor semen quality.
You should also examine the Ram’s feet, legs, teeth and eyes. Pay special attention to his testicles and epididymis. The testicles should be large (no less than 30-32 cm depending on the age of the ram) and firm without any abscesses (these may indicate disease).
The epididymis, located at the lower end of the testicle, is where sperm are stored – so the health of this part of the body is also important.
If you are only buying rams for this season, do so at least a month before you plan to breed them.
This way, you can give the sheep time to adjust to any transport shocks. The ram should also be quarantined to ensure that it is not harboring any disease from its native home.
Rams can be unpredictable and aggressive at this time of year, even though they were previously friendly. Be careful with this whenever you work with them.
6. Preparing the Living Quarters
Typical rams can serve as little as 5 ewes per day. This may vary depending on the age and health of your Ram. You can use groups of rams in large flocks, but be very careful if you plan to keep rams together.
Rams often fight and fight among themselves, which can lead to injury. You can reduce some of this by keeping the rams together a few days before breeding, but ultimately, hormones can sometimes get the best out of them.
Because of this, you may need to keep rams in different paddocks and with different breeding groups.
It can also ensure that all your sheep are served if you are not sure of the volatility of one of your rams.
Again, a fertile adult ram can serve at least 5 ewes per day, so she could theoretically serve 150 ewes or more in a two-estrus cycle breeding season.
However, it is not a good idea to expect one ram to serve many sheep. Sheep do not cycle continuously. There is a good chance that many sheep will be missed.
Therefore, it is a better idea not to ensure a ratio of 50 ewes to one ram during the breeding season. If you are using lamb, or are under one year old, you should increase the coverage rate.
If you are using multiple rams in the same breeding group (which is a good idea in some cases to ensure optimal coverage), make sure the living quarters are not confined.
There should be plenty of room to move around and lots of outdoor space.
7. Getting other sheep maintenance matters in order
There are a few other things you’ll need to do before you can your lamb.
Have to trim a leg.
Avoid biting your hooves immediately after breeding.
Do it before breeding if you can, as hoof trimming can stress your sheep and is not advised during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The same goes for other maintenance tasks, such as deworming or shearing. Do this before breeding or wait until the middle or end of pregnancy. Do FAMACHA scoring for all sheep to assess whether you need worm removal.
Make sure you continue to provide all your sheep with good nutrition (even with a grain supplement). Maintaining good body condition during the first 90 days of pregnancy will help ensure that all of your lambs survive – and are of sufficient birth weight. Keep assessing body conditions as the pregnancy progresses and you get closer to the lamb.
Your sheep are doing their best to carry their lambs into the womb. Now, for you, is also a good time to prepare.
Make sure you have a birthing kit filled with all the supplies you need for lambing and that the first possible dates for lamb are marked on your calendar.
Here’s a post that might help you prepare yourself for the busy lamb season!
Importance of Gir Sheep Maintenance
It is important to be prepared for lamb. That is, it is essential if you want to ensure the health of your entire flock.
These fall preparations for breeding sheep will ensure that you are eight-ball ahead – and that all of your sheep have successful, healthy pregnancies.
So get ready – breeding season is upon us!
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