Aiming for rams that achieve five tonnes of lambs
Achieving five tonnes of lamb output each year from a ram is a realistic target for commercial flocks with productive ewes, according to English Beef and Lamb Executive calculations.
But its Business Pointers data indicates the average is closer to 2.9 tonnes a tup, making it worth calculating how well an individual flock performed last year and how to make improvements.
To calculate how much lamb your rams produced last year, multiply the numbers of ewes put to each tup by the number of lambs reared per ewe and then multiply by the average sale weight.
Fantastic offer at Swanson Ford, Newton Abbot. 3 Years FREE Servicing and 5 Years Warranty available on your BRAND NEW FORD FIESTA with the AWARD WINNING ECOBOOST ENGINE!!!
Terms: Limited stock available. Only whilst stock lasts
Contact: 01626 240583
Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013
The first step in achieving a five-tonne target is having the confidence to go for the optimum ewe-to-ram ratio, which needs rams to be fit, ready to work and fertile, said Eblex senior livestock scientist Liz Genever.
"This year there is a risk that recent hot weather will reduce ram fertility, as testicular degeneration can occur after over-heating," she said. "The scrotum is rich in sweat glands that cool the testicles if it is able to hang in the breeze. But sheep will pant and lie down when they are hot, to transfer heat away from their bodies through their abdomen.
"By doing this, rams are lying on their testicles and 'cooking' them. To help avoid this, ensure rams are shorn, have adequate shade, plenty of water and are not over-fat. Remember, it takes around seven weeks for sperm to be produced."
So it was vital to do a simple ram "MOT test" 10 weeks before tupping to allow replacements to be sourced or treatments to be given, she said.
This involves the five Ts:
Toes. Check his locomotion, arthritis and feet
Teeth. Check for under or over-shot teeth, gaps and molar abscesses
Tone. Aim for body condition between 3.5 and 4.0 (spine well covered)
Treat. Ensure vaccinations are up-to-date and check for parasites and lameness
Testicles. Check firmness (they should feel like a flexed bicep) with no lumps or bumps.
Eblex Better Returns Programme (BRP) is working with vets Devon to survey commercial rams before the start of this breeding season. These vets will be doing more than 200 ram MOTs, across a range of breeds and locations.
The information collected will be used to understand if and why rams are failing their annual MOT and the level of fertility problems. Results will be available from late autumn.