Get set, go! For tupping season

Sheep fertility

With spring now a distant memory and the thought of harvest looming it’s now time to start planning ahead for the 2023 breeding season to maximise your lambing performance. Regardless of your flock size there are several factors to consider prior to the rams being put with the ewes. Factors such as; condition scoring, fertility testing, teaser rams and planning will result in a successful lambing and high productivity.

Getting breeding ewes in the correct body condition before tupping will: maximise ovulation rates, optimise embryo survivability and reduce incidences of metabolic disease. Further benefits include improved colostrum and milk production at lambing with improved weaning weights  The aim for a lowland ewe going into tupping is a body condition score (BCS) of 3.0. Ewes that are put with the rams with a score <2.0 will have poor production, higher mortality rates and poor reproduction. With the cost of supplementary feed high it is important to carefully consider which ewes, if any, to feed.  When planning your supplementary feed remember it can take 6-8 weeks for a ewe to gain + 1.0 condition score on a grass only diet. 

It’s not just your ewes that need to approach tupping season in good condition. It is vital to check the ram's feet, testicles, condition score and general health at least eight weeks prior to breeding. Pre-tupping rams should be 3.5-4.5 (BCS), as during the season they will work hard and need this additional condition.

A fertile ram is expected to get 85% of 60 normal healthy cycling ewes in lamb in the first cycle in a commercial situation. The most common cause of poor conception rates is due to a sub-fertile ram rather than infectious disease. Sperm production takes 7 weeks; the quality of semen produced from a ram today will reflect the condition the ram was in approximately 7 weeks ago.  When planning your season, look to allow the rams 10 weeks of low stress and quality feed for the most fertile and ready rams. Book in your ram MOT today to ensure that your rams are in condition and ready to go!

Using teasers can bring lambing forwards by around a fortnight, allowing you to catch the early spring markets. Teasers can also dramatically reduce lambing periods to under 10 days in length.  With the continued escalating costs,  compacting a lambing period to reduce staff, labour and sundry costs could become invaluable in the future. Compact lambing periods also help time lamb vaccinations & coccidiosis treatments as lambs are closer in size and age again helping mange costs and productivity.  

A combination of a ram MOT to ensure you have the most fertile and virile rams, as well as teaser rams to encourage the ewes to synchronise their seasons result in maximising production potential in your flock.  For natural covering use a ratio of 1 teaser: 100 ewes, replace the teaser after 14 days with fertile rams at ratio of 1 ram : 20 ewes. Most ewes will be served at either 18 or 25 days after the teaser is first introduced to the flock.    

Severn Edge are able to offer in-practice vasectomies if you are looking to run teasers as part of your tupping protocol this season. The procedure is done under a light sedation whilst you wait.  Once vasectomised the teaser will need 6 weeks recovery prior to being introduced to the ewes so ensure you consider this when planning. 

ADVANCED BREEDING IN SHEEP  - Artificial Insemination (A.I)
Severn Edge Farm Vets will be offering laparoscopic Artificial Insemination in sheep from August 2022. A.I. offers sheep breeders the opportunity to maximise production potential in a number of ways:

1.  Using 1 ram to serve more ewes during a set period of time than he could achieve naturally. A.I. allows around 200 ewes to be inseminated in one day versus a keen ram that may cover 60.
2.  The options of semen are endless as there is scope to use frozen semen. This in turn allows high genetic merit to improve lamb quality. Frozen semen will help in reducing disease risk, as animals do not need to be bought externally or transported. 
3. Similar to teaser rams, A.I. allows you to compact the lambing season saving labour, simplifying husbandry and reducing costs. 
4. Rearing lambs in uniform batches for sales and shows. 

To find out more about how we can help plan your lambing season simply contact the practice today.

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